Business Brisk at Briarwood Ford During Major Renovation

 07/30/2014 - 03:21
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Briarwood Ford owner Steve Whitener is pictured in what was the old dealership showroom. The dealership has gone to great lengths to keep "business as usual" during a major renovation that is expected to be competed by Thanksgiving.

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After 26 years at the corner of State and Michigan, Briarwood Ford is in the midst of a major makeover.

Work on the dealership’s first major remodeling has gone according to plan, so far. Careful consideration went into plans to service customers during the construction project and business hasn’t skipped a beat, owner Steve Whitener said.

The more than two dozen employees who moved into temporary office trailers hope to be in their new offices by Thanksgiving Day. A grand opening of the remodeled showroom is likely to follow in the New Year.

When the project is done Briarwood Ford will have a modern, expanded showroom, designed to impress from inside and out. Employees will have new offices. And the service center will be revamped.  Bloom General Contracting is managing the project.

Whitener politely declined to reveal the cost of the project, but said it was obviously a major investment in a dealership that has twice been recognized as among Ford’s best when it comes to customer service. Briarwood’s focus on customer service is the driving force behind the project.

“I think it’s something customers will appreciate, whether they are driving by or when they walk into the fresh, new showroom. It’s going to improve the atmosphere,” Whitener said.

The showroom will be expanded nine feet to the east and west. A third entrance will be located at a newly constructed front tower. The lush green front lawn will be replaced by brick pavers, creating an area for customers to sit, for sales people to showcase their Ford vehicles, or for Briarwood to have outdoor events. Nearly every interior wall south of the service line has been removed. Offices will be reconfigured to meet the demands of a modern car dealership.

“The business has changed over the years. The processes have changed. The flow of people and paper have changed,” Whitener said. “Our new design will reflect that.”

The changes won’t be quite as extensive in back. The exterior will be painted and a few new doors will be installed. Inside, Whitener said, all of the “customer touch points” will be replaced.

“The parts lobby and counter will be done. The cashiers’ space will be improved. The service advisors will be in a glassed-in area so they are completely out of the weather yet still have full view of customers driving in. It’s all designed to be much more customer friendly,” he said.

Whitener often credits his long-time employees for Briarwood Ford’s customer service awards, so he takes employee morale seriously.

“We’ve had employees who’ve been here 15, 20 and 25 years. They’re going to enjoy the new offices and furniture. I think it will do a lot for employee morale,” he said. “And I’m told that dealerships that go through a process like this do see some uptick in business and in customer satisfaction.”

29 people moved out to the temporary trailers at the end of June. The move went smoother than Whitener expected. He was most concerned about moving phones and computers and other technology from the offices to the trailers.

Below is a rendering of the exterior of the new Briarwood Ford showroom.

“It’s so important to be connected. Those things needed to be up and running on Day 1. At significant cost, we employed a number of tech people to prepare for this. We had very few flaws and those were fixed right away. The good thing is, we didn’t miss a beat from a business standpoint,” Whitener said.

The dealership was busy at the end of June and in early July.

“That helped our people. People are excited about the change and the new building, but there’s always that little bit of fear with change. Most of our people haven’t worked out of temporary offices and they wondered if they would have any negative impact on the business. That first day set the stage that there should be no disruption with our sales and numbers and that’s been our experience,” Whitener said.

To follow the construction project, follow Briarwood Ford on Facebook.

Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore founded The Saline Post on Aug. 15, 2012. Follow him on Twitter at @tranlongmoore. Follow The Saline Post @thesalinepost. Follow The Saline Post on Facebook by clicking here.