Focus on the fine touches


OAKVILLE, ONT. – Frank Apa has a habit of being one of the first.

Back in 2001, the Oakville, Ont., Lexus dealership he owns with Joe Zanchin became one of the first standalone Lexus stores to open in Ontario and the first to meet the corporate image requirements. Now, after that store makes the move into a massive new facility, the pair will have the first in the province and just the fourth store in Canada to adopt the automaker’s new Platinum Image dealership standards.

“It’s funny how it worked out,” Apa said.

The new store, owned jointly by Apa and Zanchin, head of the Zanchin Automotive Group, is a lesson in contrasts when compared to the old rooftop. Officially open for business on June 7, the new dealership tops out at 41,000 square feet.

As for location, he would be hard pressed to get a better spot. The new store sits on a massive lot just off the north side of the Queen Elizabeth Way in Oakville, roughly 30 minutes west of Toronto and just a few kilometres from the old point.

The dealership boasts a 14-car showroom, 17-car service bay, six detailing bays, a four-car vehicle delivery area, an eight-vehicle drive-thru service area and an automated car wash from Broadway Equipment.

There are even two Hunter Engineering machines installed in the massive service drive-thru to provide complementary alignment and brake testing.

During the final days of construction and amongst a flurry of activity, Apa took Canadian AutoWorld on a detailed tour of the $16.5-million project. The ever-fashionable dealer said he knew back in 2006 a change would be needed as the dealership was outgrowing the facility.

“We tried to see about expanding on the old property but that failed for various reasons. We couldn’t make all the elements work,” he said.

He and Zanchin acquired the roughly four-acre plot in 2009 and broke ground last July.

Since the first shovel went in the ground, he has sold his companion Toyota store, Oakville Toyota, to the Windsor, Ont.-based Rafih Auto Group.

The location of the old Lexus store has been sold to Remo Ferri who will put in a Maserati and Alfa Romeo point.

It is clear during the tour that his latest project is a huge point of pride. Though operating within the Lexus image guidelines, Apa said he still managed to find some wiggle room for personalization. Elements like the two lounges in the centre of the show floor, the fully stocked beverage bar and the massive set of nine flat screen TVs on the wall have his fingerprints all over them.

“It’s all about the little details,” he said, noting the tile in the upstairs hallway that leads to the executive lounge that overlooks the showroom.

Despite an opening date looming, he revealed his plans to pull out a section of countertop in the second-floor lounge area and install a $4,000 pancake maker he came across on his travels.

“We have to get it all just right,” pointing at the $7,000 custom sink in the ladies’ washroom.

And while showroom glitz always tends to steal the spotlight, the service department is the real showstopper.

The 17-bay, six-detail booth space is a stunner. Black Snap-On shelving adorns the walls and the entire back-shop floor has been tiled at a cost of $195,000.

“What we’ve tried to do is create great working environments for the entire operation. Often the technicians are forgotten about but we created this environment to keep our technicians happy and loyal.”

The exhaust control system, like the vehicle hoists, is in the ground and offers an uncluttered look.

When asked about the toughest part of the process, Apa was quick to heap praise on his general contractor Sinric for helping make construction as painless as possible. Still, he noted the time taken to ensure all the small elements are perfect has been demanding.

Strolling through the massive showroom, past the empty desks and the whir of power drills and scissor lifts, he said it was tough to point to a favourite part of the new store.

“There is so much that went into every element,” he said, “but I really like the extra amenities we were able to provide our guests. We wouldn’t have a business if it wasn’t for our guests so making things as comfortable as possible for them while they are in the dealership is important to me.”

The official grand opening is planned for early October.