Jim Hagan is a member of the third generation to run Bald Hill Dodge Jeep Chrysler Ram and Kia, which was started by his grandfather, Horace Petrarca, in 1946. Back then it was a Dodge and Plymouth dealership, but it’s at the same location at the intersection of Toll Gate Road and Route 2.
It’s about to get bigger, too.
That investment and that it has been a family-owned and run business all these years stood out for Mayor Joseph Solomon, who as part of his weekly “One-on-One Business Tours” stopped in at the dealership Tuesday morning. Joining the mayor were representatives from the city’s department of economic development and tourism and the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.
Noting that large corporations with no real roots in the community own many city businesses, Solomon said it is great to get the “family type welcoming” Bald Hill gives its customers.
“Your family is serving our [the city’s] families,” he said.
Solomon walked through the Dodge showroom and then got a quick tour of the offices before crossing in front of scores of new Jeeps to the Kia dealership that is also part of the enterprise. Hagan outlined what’s planned for next year.
The dealership plans to build a 12,000-square-foot L-shaped addition to the rear of the Kia showroom. It would house auto service, reconstruction and a photo booth.
Hagan explains that previously owned vehicles are a large part of the business and that good photographs are important. He said that they might post as many as 30 photographs on an online listing for a vehicle. Having good lighting and quality photographs are critical. He imagined the booth could cost as much at $40,000.
Overall, he put the cost of design, engineering, permitting and building the addition at close to $3 million. The design phase as well as re-purposing several of the lots from the trailer park behind the dealership has begun. He is hopeful construction will be completed by the end of 2019.
The company has 27 acres, of which 18 are devoted to the trailer park consisting of 90 units. Other than the few units that will become part of the dealership addition there is no plan to extend further into the trailer park, Hagan assured.
Also, he said there is no plan at this time to add a dealership to the operation. In addition to new and previously owned vehicles, the company runs a parts operation with 12 delivery trucks and car rentals with 180 vehicles. Hagan estimated the company has 500 new and 150 previously owned vehicles on site. It employs 130.
The business has changed dramatically since the days that Petrarca ran it.
“The old days of crazy high prices are over,” Hagan said.
With the Internet, potential buyers know costs and have done their shopping. Hagan said it makes for “educated” buyers who know what they are looking for and where to find it.
“It has done away with the tire-kickers,” he said.
The company has six Internet sales people who follow up on leads and make appointments.
Hagan said he is seeing a shortage of auto technicians. He was complimentary of the New England Institute of Technology and their work with the Chrysler CAP (customer assistance program) Program and its graduation of Level II technicians. Starting pay for these graduates he put in the range of $20 an hour. The dealership has also worked with the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center, he said.