Manatee County Vintage Car Dealer Drops Hammer on $ 6 Million Expansion Project | Business Observer
After being located in Palmetto, in northern Manatee County, for four years, a vintage car dealership decided it was time for a change of scenery.
“Palmetto was a great place, especially for online sales and to prove that we had the market,” says Mark Tanski, Skyway Classics dealership co-owner. Once the business knew the demand was there, management decided it was time to move. “We built this location to be more inside the community.”
Skyway Classics is now located at 10420 Portal Crossing in the growing Lakewood Ranch. The company has a number of cars for sale on the lot, but also serves as a car consignment and research site.
And the move was more than just a move. It was a $ 6 million expansion project that tripled its space and offers multiple opportunities for income diversification. From 15,000 square feet to over 45,000 square feet, the dealership now has the space to store more inventory, provide a machine shop and tackle a new aspect of business: automotive warehousing.
“It’s kind of like a shipyard or a marina,” Tanski explains of the storage concept, where customers can call ahead before arriving and the dealership will have the car ready to go.
The company is looking to expand into other markets statewide, but owners are taking their time to make sure the demand is there. This Lakewood Ranch location with the added features will be a good test of this application.
The expansion project has been under construction for about two years now, and the inauguration took place last October. Construction took about a year.
The pandemic had little impact on construction – other than the windows, which took another three months to arrive. Even in terms of sales, the company has stood firm in the face of COVID-19. “I would say that (the pandemic) actually helped in a way,” Tanski says, “because people didn’t have as much to do.”
The daily challenges the dealership faces are really about finding specific cars for customers and respectfully restoring the cars to keep them as legitimate as possible.
“What makes a car so unique is the fact that they are survivors,” he says. “These cars that are 30-60 years old that have survived so long, it’s not like they’re around every corner like a new car.”
One of the ways they’ve overcome the challenge of finding cars is by increasing foot traffic. It wasn’t something the old location supported, but with the extra space, the company is now seeing more customers walk through the doors. “So now we meet people looking to do something on a Sunday afternoon,” he says, noting that he has had customers who stop and notice a car their friend has been looking for for some time. “This is exactly the dream come true,” he adds.
The concept of storage, meanwhile, evolved from the space they are in today, near the intersection of State Road 64 and Upper Manatee River Road. The new space can hold 200 cars, compared to 58 very crowded cars at the previous location. “It was always about connecting people with cars. But we realized that there is a huge market to help people enjoy their cars.
Future expansion will be based on a community club aspect. “A place where people can meet, store their cars and organize events,” says Tanski. In addition, he hopes to have enough space for collectors to own and store more “toys”.
The aim is to create a specific atmosphere that combines a living room with a convenient place to park a car. Tanski imagines a cigar lounge, a poker room, and a golf and racing simulator.
The construction strategy also includes a plan for new locations. Depending on how they treat the concept of storage, it may eventually become necessary to build another specific storage facility on the street, Tanski explains. The current location would then become a concession / consignment opportunity.
The Skyway team also offers ideas to appeal to those who don’t own a classic car. The showroom is mainly intended for car owners, but everyone is welcome to come and discover the space, the inventory and the different shows it organizes. “We’re excited to be here right now and to see how the community starts to respond,” Tanski said, noting that they are taking steps to really listen to the community by attending auto shows.
He recently attended an auto show in Lakewood Ranch, for example, where he met five of his clients in recent months. “It’s about creating that relationship,” he says, “and asking them what their needs are. ”
Feedback from the new space has been positive, says Tanski. And the future couldn’t be brighter.
“What’s really cool about this industry, especially with the classics, is that every generation nostalgia for their childhood or the high school they love to go through,” he says. “There are always collectors.