Baker's Double Cadillac joins Buick, GMC as luxury import dealership buys out Sentry
The birth of Baker Buick GMC Cadillac this week wraps up a complex two-stage deal involving multiple players, brands — and bridges.
Baker’s new General Motors outlet at 1621 Savannah Highway broadens the company’s auto stable to 11 import and domestic franchises woven into West Ashley’s noted stretch of car and truck dealerships.
“We’ve been working on this one seven months,” said Tommy Baker, owner and president of Baker Motor Co. since its launch 24 years ago.
On Tuesday, he clinched the purchase of Sentry Buick GMC, situated 500 yards west of Baker’s luxury import dealership. At the same time, he re-slotted Baker Cadillac from east of the Cooper to the Sentry spot. Baker Buick GMC Cadillac opened Wednesday morning. To get everything ready on time, new Cadillacs were moved across area overpasses Tuesday evening and parked on the West Ashley lot.
Bill Gironda, vice president of Baker Motor Co., will oversee short and long term planning as well as daily operations for Baker Buick GMC Cadillac. Eric Gustafson, who was Baker Cadillac general manager, has been named g.m. of the new dealership.
The transaction completed a furious fall and early winter. Baker bought out Miller Cadillac on Nov. 14 and put up temporary signs at the Johnnie Dodds Boulevard address. Then in the span of two days, it acquired Sentry while closing Cadillac in Mount Pleasant and re-opening west of the Ashley. Baker Buick GMC Cadillac verbiage graced the giant locational signs at the dealership Wednesday.
Both of the Baker-purchased businesses were long-time family run dealerships in the Charleston area.
Harold Arnold II, who sold to Baker, was president and dealer operator of Sentry Buick GMC for 25 years.
Also known as Harold Arnold’s Sentry, it was one of the first dealerships to move to the Interstate 526 area before setting up on Savannah Highway in the mid-2000s.
“It was a pleasure to deal with Harold,” Baker said in prepared remarks. “He was very much a gentleman. It was honorably done and a seamless transaction.”
Arnold and his son Harold Arnold III retired.
In the Miller transaction, chief executive Sumter de Brux, who is related by marriage, sold the more than 50-year-old business. He also retired.
Baker said he is friends with each of the former dealership owners. “I think the key is, whether Sumter or Harold, we were family,” Baker said.
Virtually all employees with Sentry and Miller were offered positions with Baker Motor.
“You know, there are some good people, not only at the Cadillac store but Buick GMC,” Baker said. The motor company employs about 100 people at Buick GMC Cadillac.
“I’ve been with Harold 20 years,” said Rodney Blake, sales and leasing specialist at Sentry. “I hate to see him go. But in life, change comes. I look forward to working with the Baker organization,” Blake said. “I ask all my old customers to come see me.”
There are 150 or so Baker Motor employees elsewhere, including at the company’s long-time venue in the 1500 block of Savannah Highway.
The dealership’s lineup there is Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Infiniti, Range Rover, Land Rover, Cadillac, Jaguar, Maserati, Maybach, Sprinter and smart. The company operates a pre-owned auto center on U.S. Highway 17 North in Mount Pleasant and also sells used cars at the Savannah Highway sites.
According to Baker, former owners Arnold and de Brux agreed that grouping the brands at Sentry’s six acres of property and 63,000 square foot building — a former grocery store — was the best move.
“Combining the Buick GMC and Cadillac franchises together make a powerful combination,” Baker said in prepared comments.
He intends to make a few changes right away, such as adding an automatic car wash, extending service department hours to Saturday and offering drop off-pick up and delivery for all Buick, GMC and Cadillac customers.
“Our goal is to spoil our Cadillac, Buick and GMC customers and to give them unparalleled customer service in every department,” he said.
Meanwhile, Baker’s architects have completed initial renderings of a new building, to be constructed in the front of the original building, that will feature separate, state of the art showrooms for Buick/GMC and Cadillac. The showrooms will add 10,000 square feet to the dealership. The original structure will house service and parts departments.
“We plan to break ground on our new showrooms within a couple of months,” Baker said. “Our goal is to have the most impressive GM facility in this marketplace.” According to Baker, the estimated completion date is December.
“Having three out of the four GM franchises under one roof is a great opportunity for Baker Motor Co.,” he said. “GM is now the number one automotive selling brand in the world and their future product is phenomenal. They’ve prepared themselves to succeed in the long run.”
He termed Cadillac a luxury domestic brand, Buick as neo-luxury and GMC as top-of-the line in the American truck and sport-utility fields.
Baker began his automotive career in 1970 as a salesman at James Oldsmobile in Charleston. “Oldsmobile (a former GM brand) was on fire back then, just as GM is today,” he said.
For more information, visit www.bakermotorcompany.com or call 843-852-4000.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.