A classic car dealership finds itself restructuring its business model amid a $6 million expansion. One goal driving the change: more revenue streams.
After being located in Palmetto, north Manatee County, for four years, a classic car dealership decided it was time for a change of scenery.
“Palmetto was a great area to be especially for online sales and proving that we had the market,” says Mark Tanski, co-owner of the dealership, Skyway Classics. Once the company knew demand was there, management decided it was time to move. “We built out this location to be more inside the community.”
Skyway Classics is now located at 10420 Portal Crossing in fast-growing Lakewood Ranch. The company has a number of cars for sale on the lot, but also serves as a consignment site and car finder.
And the move was more than just a move. It was a $6 million expansion project that grew its space threefold — and provides multiple opportunities for revenue diversification. From 15,000-square-feet to upward of 45,000-square-feet, the dealership now has the space to house more inventory, provide a mechanic shop and tackle a new business aspect: automobile storage.
“It’s kind of like a boatyard or marina,” Tanski says of the storage concept, where customers will be able to call ahead before arriving and the dealership will have the car ready to go.
The company is looking to expand into other markets statewide, but the owners are taking their time to ensure demand is there. This Lakewood Ranch location with the additional features will be a good test of that demand.
The expansion project has been in the works for about two years now, with groundbreaking taking place last October. The construction took about a year.
The pandemic had little impact on the buildout — aside from the window panes, which took an extra three months to arrive. Even in terms of sales, the company stood its ground against COVID-19. “I would say (the pandemic) actually helped in a way,” Tanski says, “because people didn’t have as much to do.”
The day-to-day challenges the dealership faces really stems down to finding specific cars for customers and respectfully restoring the cars to keep them as legitimate as possible.
“What makes a car so unique is the fact that they are survivors,” he says. “These cars that are 30-60 years old that have survived for so long, it’s not like they’re at every corner like a new car.’
One way they’ve overcome the challenge of finding cars is through increased foot traffic. That wasn’t something the former location supported, but with the additional space now the company sees more customers come through the doors. “So now we’re experiencing people who are looking to do something on a Sunday afternoon,” he says, noting he’s had customers stop by and notice a car their friend had been looking for awhile. “This is exactly the dream come true,” he adds.
The storage concept, meanwhile, has evolved from the space they’re in today, near the intersection of State Road 64 and Upper Manatee River Road. The new space can hold 200 cars compared to a tightly packed 58 cars in the previous location. “It was always about connecting people with cars. But we realized there’s a huge market for helping people enjoy their cars.”
Future expansion will be based around a community club aspect. “A place where people can get together, store their cars and host events,” Tanski says. Additionally, he hopes to have enough space for collectors to own and store more “toys.”
The goal is to build out a specific atmosphere that combines a lounge with a convenient place to park a car. Tanski imagines a cigar lounge, poker and simulator golf and racing.
The buildout strategy also includes a plan for new locations. Depending on how they do with the storage concept, it may eventually become necessary to build another facility specific to storage down the street, Tanski says. Then the current location would become a dealership/consignment opportunity.
The Skyway team is also throwing around ideas to appeal to those who don’t own a classic car. The showroom is mainly for car owners, but anyone is welcome to come check out the space, inventory and different shows they have going on. “We’re excited to be here at this time and see how the community starts to react,” says Tanski, noting they’re taking measures to really listen to the community through attending car shows.
He recently attended a car show in Lakewood Ranch, for example, where he ran into five of his customers from the last few months. “It’s creating that relationship,” he says, “and asking them what their needs are.”
The feedback of the new space has been positive, Tanski says. And the future couldn’t be brighter.
“The really cool thing about this industry, especially with the classics, is every generation has their childhood or high school nostalgia that they like to live through,” he says. “There’s always collectors.”