Failed dealership creates business opportunity

May 22, 2009 6:37:48 PM PDT
One industry estimate says auto dealership closings will result in 200,000 job losses across the country. It is already happening in the Bay Area, and more are on the way. However, one empty lot in Gilroy is showing signs of life.

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Art Silva spent more than a quarter of a century as a Ford service technician. He can tell you the exact day the Gilroy Ford Dealership went dark and he joined the ranks of the unemployed.

"It was February 18, 2009 and it was kind of devastation," said Silva.

In a matter of hours, 35 people lost their jobs and a dealership that had thrived since 1968 became another snapshot of the recession..

The Lynch family owned and operated the Gilroy Ford Dealership for 38 years before selling the business in 2007. When it abruptly closed this year, it was decision time. The family still had an auto body and paint shop next door. They dared to hope an auto repair shop could fill a void the dealer left behind.

"Some of the existing accounts that we had as Bob Lynch Ford are really happy to continue to come here," said Melanie Renner-Troini, a Lynch family employee.

It was a mini-stimulus for what could have been an economic graveyard. Art was rehired to run the independent shop, Laurie is the service advisor, and there are two technicians, Dan and Francisco.

"It feels really nice to have a job; really nice to work again," said auto technician Francisco Marquez.

"It does feel like a family, you know Frank over there and Art and everybody, it does feel like a family," said auto technician Dan Marquez.

Four jobs saved out of 35. Reason enough to enjoy a barbeque and plan for a grand opening with banners to replace the homemade signs.

"Now's the time actually to start," said Silva. "Doesn't seem like it is, but if we can make it now I believe we'll definitely be able to pull it off."

Excel Auto Repair is ready to prove that in the worst of times a slow start is better than no start at all.

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