Ask Joe Sarro why he chose to head up a Chevrolet dealership in Mount Pleasant, and he tells the story of going to a recent Riverdogs baseball game.
The dealer, who drives a Tahoe, scanned the parking lot and made a cursory count of car brands. He came up with an impressive figure.
“Over 50 percent (of the vehicles) were Chevys.” Not all types of General Motors cars, mind you. Just Chevrolets.
“There’s a lot of Chevys around here,” he said.
Sarro jumped into the top post last week at the new Mount Pleasant Chevrolet, which opened on U.S. Highway 17 North at Hungryneck Boulevard.
A Florida group including Sarro bought the former McElveen Chevrolet in the past couple of weeks. Financial terms were not disclosed.
McElveen Automotive Group had been in Mount Pleasant for close to a decade, having built the East Cooper showroom and lot. The dealership changed over to Mount Pleasant Chevrolet last weekend.
Sarro, who describes himself as the “owner-operator” of a family-operated dealership, cited the vibrant Charleston area market as an enticement. “That’s why we decided to buy the store,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I spent a lot of time the last couple of months meeting with the residents. They’ve needed an aggressive Chevy dealer,” he said.
Sarro spent 21 years with the same dealership, the supersized Gary Yeomans Ford Lincoln in Daytona Beach, Fla. “It’s the only way to stay loyal to the customer,” he said.
At the same time, “It was a dream of mine to have my own store,” he said.
The new chief wasted no time getting up and running. “We are expanding out here in the corner” of the 6-acre dealership property, he said. The store plans to free up space to bring in additional inventory from Florida. There are about 200 cars on the lot now, Sarro says, while the dealership has access to as many as 500 used vehicles.
“We’ve got a lot of exciting (plans). You’ll see a lot of change,” Sarro said.
For instance, “We look forward to participating in the community.” The dealership expects to partner with the local school system, he said, noting that he has two children, 13 and 10, who will be attending Mount Pleasant public schools. He also expects the dealership to sponsor activities such as youth sports and school bands.
Sarro, 42, believes his years in the Daytona Beach auto market honed his business sense. “It’s a pretty aggressive market down there,” he says, noting that dealerships stood out by appealing to the customer. “We want to bring the same service to Mount Pleasant,” he said.
Sarro has rolled out a few perks right off at the East Cooper car store. They include free delivery and a 48-hour exchange policy in which the dealership will swap cars in the first two days with buyers who aren’t satisfied with their purchase. Meanwhile, “We have a beautiful customer lounge” where shoppers can enjoy free coffee, donuts and popcorn, he said.
“I want them thinking good things. I try to make it, ‘Buying a car is fun,’ ” he says. “Customer satisfaction is absolutely everything to me.”
Another goal is to get the word out about Mount Pleasant Chevrolet. Right off, the new ownership group beefed up advertising. Crews landscaped and cleared out foliage around the store so that motorists on Highway 17 can more easily see the building. Sarro, who grew up near Boston, said the owners have already brought on 15 employees to bring the total figure to 45. “We are looking to expand (the number of ) technicians and are looking for sales people. We’re looking to grow, not stop here.”
The beefed up sales pitch comes as Chevrolet introduces sleek new models. “The new Impala is absolutely gorgeous,” he said. The “bowtie” carmaker also overhauled its popular line of Silverado pickups for 2014.
The owner-operator likes the Charleston area. “It’s a beautiful city, growing every day,” he said.
Moreover, he understands the importance of a local car dealership in Mount Pleasant.
“It’s their home town Chevy store, you know? We are not going to be Joe Sarro Chevrolet; it’s Mount Pleasant Chevrolet.”
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mount Pleasant Chevrolet opened last week after the Florida ownership group bought it from McElveen Automotive Group (Leroy Burnell/Staff).×
The showroom includes (from left) Chevy Cruise, Malibu and Sonic (Leroy Burnell/Staff).×
The reception area is at the entrance to Mount Pleasant Chevrolet, at Highway 17 and Hungryneck Boulevard east of the Cooper (Leroy Burnell/Staff).×
Staff at Mount Pleasant Chevrolet check out paperwork. The dealership has 45 employees (Leroy Burnell/Staff).×
Joe Sarro walks through the showroom at Mount Pleasant Chevrolet (Leroy Burnell/Staff ).×