The Post and Courier

Eye the new car dealership off Interstate 26 at Summerville and you’ll see a fresh look: striking facade, bold entryways and broad windows.

If you stop in, there’s more — an updated showroom; customer lounge packing movie-style popcorn; covered, drive-up service avenues; and a “red carpet” center where eager buyers take delivery of their new vehicles.

Yet perhaps the most dramatic impact of the renovated McElveen Buick GMC store off U.S. Highway 17A, which is holding a grand re-opening this month, is how the changes accentuate the personalized efforts of its 85 employees.

Not that the dealership was a slouch in any way when it came to looking out for the customer.

But now there are added perks. A greeter, 15-year employee Leon Seyward, does everything from topping off your coffee cup to giving you a courtesy ride to work or wherever. Information specialist Kay Lail is at her desk in the center of the showroom handling calls, fielding questions and pointing directions. A host of service professionals at the reconfigured fix-it and parts center provide door-side assistance out of the elements and whisk your car away valet style.

McElveen Buick GMC launched the overhaul in March 2012, adhering to design guidelines of manufacturer General Motors. The dealership didn’t stop there, however.

“It’s been a one-year project,” said Todd Smith, partner in the Summerville operation. “We did a little more than what GM required,” he said.

Notably, the dealership revamped its service area, which had become narrow, crowded and customer-unfriendly. Contractors broadened the drive-up area to four lanes from one, freeing an entry point that used to back up five cars deep; extended the lighted covering 20 feet so that up to 10 cars can park out of the rain; crafted close-by offices for “ticket writers” who can quickly meet customers at their cars to take down pertinent information; and enlarged and modernized the customer lounge.

“Service is better, and we are more efficient,” owner Doug McElveen said. The last stage, which should take a couple of months, is to spruce up the 35-bay maintenance and repair center as well as outbuildings for specialty work. “This is Phase Four of a two part operation,” Smith quipped.

While the service remake was an extra, McElveen handled most of the upgrades based on GM’s plan to redesign all its stores with a single signature look, akin to many national retail outlets that showcase widely identifiable and highly visible color schemes, lettering or logos.

The Summerville dealership remodeled the entire fascia, Smith said, installing new signs, displaying bold colors and styling the main entrance in black and chrome.

Inside, the showroom was brightened up and redirected to make it easier to negotiate. The parts department was revamped so that customers are able to walk up to a sales rep for service.

Also changed up is the delivery area. In a GM innovation, purchasers when they pick up their cars literally receive the “red carpet” treatment. They can view their car parked in an open hangar with fluorescent lights, wide windows and strips of red carpet on the floor. Once they sign the papers, the buyers are given a walk around, get their OnStar system hooked up and order any accessories. Then an oversized garage door opens, and they drive away.

Eventually, the delivery center is expected to include computer terminals or other multimedia where customers can electronically “build” their car with accessories added, Smith said.

The makeover comes as GM in the next year prepares to introduce a slew of new or totally restyled models including Buicks and GMCs. “We can all say, this probably is the most new products rolling out (at one time) in GM history,” McElveen said.

Among them, the full-sized GMC Sierra pickup will be remade for the first time in seven years. That’s big news for the Summerville store: “We definitely dominate in GMC sales,” McElveen said.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or