The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Money

May 4, 2014

Lewisburg car dealership marks 80th anniversary

One of the region’s best-known octogenarians is celebrating a landmark event with a spiffy facelift. Marking its 80th year in business, Bill Lewis Motors is sporting a brand new state-of-the-art facility, thanks to a recently concluded eight-month renovation project.

Although General Motors had a hand in the paint scheme and the exterior design, the local dealership served as its own general contractor on the renovation, according to Jeff Lewis, one of the third generation of Lewis family members now involved in the business.

“The whole building needed a renovation,” Lewis said, pointing out that everything from the shop area forward in the building was demolished to make way for improvements.

Sales manager Shannon Blake said, “They just about gutted everything. There are new walls inside and outside, and the showroom was expanded on both ends. Before the renovation, I could only put one car in the showroom, but now there’s plenty of space for six cars, with room to spare.”

Blake continued, “GM wanted (all of its dealerships) to do the same front facade, and we were ready for an update. We had good cooperation from the city. We’re up to code on everything.

“Everything in this building is top of the line. We didn’t cut any corners anywhere. We did this thing right.”

Modernizing the facilities that remained within the footprint of the original building — which was constructed in 1969 — was a major task in itself, as old paneling and carpet were stripped away.

But the cosmetic changes were far from the main focus, Lewis said, pointing proudly to room after room of newly specialized spaces in the expanded structure, such as the area used to store flammables, the body shop/collision shop, the meticulously organized parts department, the warranty lock-up and even an employee break room that will soon include computers for the dealership’s certified technicians to use.

“We tried to utilize what we already had, when possible,” Lewis emphasized, adding, “But we tried to improve every area of the building. It’s more efficient all the way around.”

Blake echoed that statement, saying, “We wanted to make things easier and more accessible. We now have a nice sales area with plenty of openness. It’s just a better feeling.”

A customer lounge boasts a 72-inch flat-screen TV, vending machines, free coffee and a children’s area, which Blake said is a particularly nice amenity for parents whose children wait with them while the family vehicle is in the shop for an oil change or a minor part replacement.

Re-allocating space throughout the car lot has also allowed Bill Lewis Motors to double its vehicle inventory, with more colors and choices.

“We have over 200 cars on the lot now,” Blake said.

The most popular model at the Chevrolet and Buick franchise is the 2014 Silverado truck, according to Blake, who said, “They sell themselves.”

Even though he has only been with Bill Lewis Motors for a little over four years, Blake said several of the dealership’s 40-plus employees have been with the family-owned company for more than 20 years. Customers appreciate seeing a familiar face, he said.

“Our repeat business is about as strong as I’ve seen at any dealership,” Blake said. “People have been buying their vehicles here for 25 and 30 years, and they keep coming back. These customers are loyal to Bill Lewis Motors because they’ve been treated right.”

The dealership’s owner, Chuck Lewis, who continues the family tradition begun by his grandfather and father at Hanna Chevrolet and later Bill Lewis Motors, proclaimed the company’s philosophy in announcing the remodeled facility’s grand opening this weekend: “No gimmicks; straight talk and simple math since 1934.”

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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