Christmas came a little early for employees and customers of a longtime Forsyth County car dealership.
Billy Howell Ford on Highway 9, south of Cumming, recently completed a makeover of its reception and sales area.
“We replaced just about everything,” said Bill Howell, company vice president.
Howell noted that the remodeling is just the second in the dealership’s 22-year history.
“Everything looks better now than it did when it was new,” Howell said.
The first makeover occurred 11 years ago, he said, and included an 8,000-square-foot expansion to the showroom.
Howell said the recent project took about three months to complete, but he noted business was not interrupted during that time.
“All the work was done at night,” he said.
The upgrades to the facility include a more prominently located reception desk and a new waiting area for customers with leather sofas and a big screen television.
There are also more spacious office spaces for employees.
“One thing that’s unique is that we used all real wood with everything, not pressed wood,” Howell said. “It’s all real cherry or maple. It really gives everything a rich, timeless feel.”
Sales consultant Brenda McClain said customers and employees alike have been enjoying the new amenities.
“The customers feel really comfortable here,” she said. “They love the TV and the sofas while they’re waiting. Everyone comments on it.
“For us [employees], it’s so much different than what we had in the past. It really feels good.”
Other additions include new a break room for employees and a café area for customers, where they can get snacks and sodas, water or coffee.
“The staff has talked the most about the break room,” Howell said. “I’ve been amazed at how much more they’re eating here now.”
There are also two “business areas,” where customers can work while waiting on vehicles.
Each is similar to an office cubicle. Customers can use their laptops and access the facility’s wireless Internet, printers and copy machines.
While their parents wait, children can play in the “kids’ area,” with desks, coloring books and toys.
“There’s a new trend to do away with kids’ areas,” Howell noted. “But we definitely felt it was important to keep the play area so children have something to do.”
Customers have been impressed with the new look.
“I think it’s great,” said Ron Williams, who’s been buying vehicles from the dealership since 1996. “I told Bill he needs to rename it Billy Howell Financial Institution because it looks like a bank or something.”
But Howell doesn’t plan to do any renaming anytime soon.
“Business is up significantly,” he said, noting that the new look has played a role.
“When the employees are happy and satisfied, they make sure the customers are happy and satisfied.”