Holman Automotive is proof that treating others well never goes out of style. Approaching 100 years in business, the family-owned company prides itself on maintaining a friendly, intimate atmosphere among its staff, customers, partners, and the communities it serves.
The tactic has paid dividends. Holman Automotive got its start when Steward Holman opened a single Ford dealership in New Jersey in 1924. Today, it’s is one of the largest privately owned dealership groups in the US. With the acquisition of Kuni Automotive in 2016, it now has 36 dealerships representing 17 brands from coast to coast, and it remains in family hands. Ninety-two-year-old Joseph Holman is chairman of the board emeritus and still comes in to work every day, and younger family members—including Mindy Holman, chairman of the board—continue to fill key leadership roles.
Michael Moonan, director of real estate development, played a key role in the Kuni acquisition by evaluating each of its properties and ensuring they were a match for Holman’s growth plans. Beyond buying, selling, and leasing land for dealerships, though, Moonan also oversees the design and construction of new or renovated dealerships and leads facility management. Here, he shares how he and his team overcame challenges to find success on three recent or ongoing projects.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Holman Automotive broke ground on the relocation of a Ft. Lauderdale imports dealership in summer of 2018. The dealership, which includes the Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, and Bentley brands, will be located on 3.5 acres of a 10-acre property. “We’re moving it to a better location, on Route 1, situated closer to our customer base,” Moonan says. “It will have a reflecting pool, high-end finishes, a large service shop, and structured parking.”
The property was originally the site of an Infiniti dealership, and demolition of that store has already been completed. “Having 10 acres with existing buildings allowed us to move Infiniti into a temporary location to start work,” Moonan says.
This project, scheduled to be completed in summer of 2019, reflects the high value Holman places on its relationships with its partners—just one aspect of the company’s family atmosphere. Miller Construction, which Holman has been working with for nearly a decade, and Robert Reid Wedding, a trusted architecture firm, both have important roles on the project. “The family atmosphere comes from how we work together internally and how we work with our partners and consultants,” Moonan says. “It’s about total respect for each other.”
“Holman is a great client because our cultures align,” says Miller president Brian Sudduth. “We’ve built a trusting relationship with them and that benefits every project we do together.”
Other key Holman partners include FSMY Architects, out of Fort Lauderdale, and the Gravity Company, an architecture, interior design, and construction firm with offices in Dallas and Orlando that began partnering with Holman after the Kuni acquisition. “Although we had earned a level of trust at Kuni that we had yet to develop with Holman, Mike’s candor, integrity and openness provided the foundation in development of that kind of relationship with Holman,” Gravity Company cofounder F. Michael Graves says.”
Fort Washington, PA
When Audi wanted its Willow Grove dealership moved to a better location, in Fort Washington, Moonan had difficulty finding an existing piece of real estate to meet the brand’s needs. So, he and his team manufactured the right space.
Holman purchased two outdated buildings located off a highway, between a BMW dealership and a Mercedes dealership (neither owned by Holman). Behind the space was a little-used parking lot for a Holiday Inn, backing up to a rail line, which meant there was no room to build out the extensive parking a dealership requires, including customer parking, employee parking, service parking, and space for new and used car inventory. Moonan’s team negotiated with the hotel to purchase 3.5 acres of its land, but the land was positioned on a floodplain, restricting building opportunities. “We settled on building the showroom at grade, by the road, and we are putting parking behind and building structured parking above it,” Moonan says. “Because of the floodplain and associated wetlands, we had to navigate multiple approvals. Our team of attorneys and engineers did a nice job getting us through those.”
The project is scheduled to be completed by early 2019. Penny Design Group, Bohler Engineering, and North Star Construction Management are Holman’s partners on the relocation.
Palo Alto, CA
When Holman Automotive opens a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Palo Alto, it will be the first of the German luxury brand’s locations in the company’s portfolio. The first attempt to develop a dealership in this location failed to gain city approval, so Holman Automotive stepped in. “We studied transcripts of the meetings with Palo Alto to figure out why the city voted against the initial project ,” Moonan says. “We’re taking a more collaborative approach. Our job is to mesh our goals with the city’s goals to get it right.”
The high cost of land in the area and the city’s strict building-height restrictions pose another parking challenge, which is compounded by the small amount of property earmarked for the dealership. Holman is therefore considering constructing an automated parking garage, which would compress the height needed per level of parking. “This type of parking has been around in major cities, but it hasn’t been accomplished for a dealership in the US yet,” Moonan says, adding that more research is needed before Holman can move forward with the plan.
The most important consideration is always maximizing the customer experience. If approved, the automated parking structure will have a glass wall to enable customers to see cars move within the structure. Each customer will be able to walk up to a kiosk with the guidance of a sales person, select a car, and within 90 seconds have it appear from behind a garage door. “We create every dealership with the customer in mind,” Moonan says, “whether that’s someone walking in to buy a car or get their tire fixed.”