Fallon Ford-Toyota celebrates milestone
Fallon Ford-Toyota’s ribbon-cutting is tonight after a two-year expansion project to give customers and employees a roomier, more updated place to do businesses and take pride in as well as help keep Fallon growing and thriving.
Natalie Parrish, executive director of the Fallon Chamber of Commerce, said due to its prime location on West Williams Avenue, anyone who’s been in Fallon for very long has seen the construction and development and possibly the interior’s final product. The invitation-only event will offer refreshments along with appetizers and a dessert.
“Any time there’s an expansion that benefits the community, we want to be part of it,” she added. “Especially in this case because they benefit our tax revenue.”
Dealer franchise systems provide local economic benefits from jobs to sales tax revenue that stays local as opposed to factory-owned dealerships.
The large-scale remodel features a new showroom and service drive up area where customers can pull in and describe what they need as well as experience a brand new reception area. The changes reflect current branding for Ford and Toyota, and the interior designs blend history with modern style. The owners said sales went undisrupted, and customers were flexible.
“We actually removed every part of the showroom,” said co-owner Kurt Henning. “We couldn’t really remodel that building and get what we wanted,” so that was the best thing to do he said, noting the remodel turned out great with the Service and Parts Departments.
THREE GENERATIONS IN THE BUSINESS
The three-generation Henning family business began with Kurt’s father, Howard Henning, in 1956 starting the Anderson Ford-Mercury dealership on the thoroughfare that was Center Street and in the building across from the Overland Hotel. Howard later had the foresight to expand the business by moving to the outskirts of town, then erecting a new building on Williams Avenue in 1976. The Toyota line was added in the 1980s.
“Fallon has a very business-friendly city government,” Kurt said. “Very unlike most cities. They really helped us through the whole process.”
Kurt also said every contractor and subcontractor used was local.
“That was very important to us,” he said. “The electricians, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, every single bit of it we did with local people. The only one was a tile company that’s located in Reno, but the owner lives here in Fallon.”
Kurt also discussed how people could have a misconception that it’s cheaper to go out of town.
“We’ve found that it certainly isn’t,” he continued. “You know all the builders; they’re all friends and customers of ours, and that’s very important to us to do business with people who do business with us. It worked out really well. If we had to do it over, we’d do it exactly the same way.”
The owners talked about how part of the reason for the remodel was to have the new images the factories put out.
“If you go in dealerships across the country, they have a similar look,” Kurt said. “We wanted to comply with the Ford and Toyota images.”
Howard interjected that it’s like McDonald’s. The franchise effort provides consistency, something familiar and recognizable.
That’s when tradition is important.
There are two Ford Model A’s perched above the showroom as well as the original Center Street neon Ford sign, among other antiques throughout the building including the original cash register, a Coke machine and a Model A magneto tester.
Kurt said the Coke machine is two nickels for a small, glass bottle of Coca-Cola.
“We can’t change it,” he said smiling. “It’s two nickels and you’re going to get one, so it’s a loser,” he said and laughed. “It’s fine. It’s totally fine.”
confidence in the future
Henning family friend Mayor Ken Tedford said the renovation shows their confidence in both the community and business community’s futures.
“They’ve always invested in their community and have done a great job with this investment too,” the mayor said. “I can’t tell you what confidence it shows.”
Tedford also said it’s great for West Williams Avenue and explained how the family-run business goes the extra mile by giving back to local charities with their Pay It Forward program.
“They’re a great family and have done a lot of things for the community. As mayor, I really appreciate it.”
The industrial-looking showroom and adjacent customer lounge with rustic touches also includes space for the sales and finance offices as well as the Parts Department. The showroom can now stage four to five cars, whereas only two before, and the lounge boasts comfortable chairs, a television and cozy coffee bar.
“We wanted to keep the old along with the new,” said Kurt, mentioning the special antiques that punctuate the décor and have been with the business since its inception. “We wanted to tie a little bit of the heritage from the old days back into modern times.”
The dealership has more than 60 employees today, and Howard, in his mid 80s, still shows up to work every day to read and distribute the mail.
During the project, the business name changed from Fallon Auto Mall to Fallon Ford-Toyota, which the family said is helpful for brand recognition and internet marketing.
Although they don’t market it heavily, Chris Henning, one of Kurt’s sons who runs new car sales, emphasized the dealership’s program Pay It Forward — which takes $50 from every vehicle sale as a donation to a local charity of the customer’s choosing. There are about 15-20 options ranging from animal rescue and the Mayor’s Youth Fund to senior care and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.
The company has donated $170,300 over the last five years and didn’t stop running the program during tighter financial years.
Kurt’s son Clint is the used car buyer for the dealership and runs its service center, and Kurt’s wife, Debi, is heavily involved with Special Projects.
“It was Kurt’s baby,” said Chris of the renovation. “Clint and I and Tim (Mitchell, sales manager), we all the run the business — but we said Kurt, the building’s yours, you handle it.”
Kurt touched on how a family-held business is kind of a 24-7 thing, and it’s what they talk about most of the time. He agreed he bore the weight of the building project but that it was a pretty painless process.
“But am I glad it’s over? Absolutely.”
Kurt reinforced how the business has been in the family for 60 years, and they want it to continue another 60.
Howard interjected again, “Oh no, not me.”
The family laughed. Howard will actually be doing the cutting of the ribbon tonight.
“At one point,” Kurt said. “Toyota actually asked us if we’d move to Fernley. They wanted us on the Interstate. And we said no, this is home; this is where we belong, and no, we weren’t going to move the dealership. So we turned them down. This is a wonderful place.”