The ghost of a dead Jacksonville Beach dealership began rising again the day after Halloween, as George Moore Chevrolet takes shape at the shuttered First Coast Dodge dealership at 10979 Atlantic Blvd.
A new sign for the revived dealership was installed a week ago, as work begins inside to make it a place where the veteran dealer can sell Cruzes, Corvettes and Silverados once again by a target of Wednesday, Dec. 1.
Moore closed his 24-year-old dealership at 711 Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville Beach in December, one of 1,100 shuttered by General Motors in the midst of its bankruptcy restructuring. He appealed to GM to let him reopen, and when a planned Dodge dealership closed only days after opening at the Arlington site, Moore secured the lease.
“It is basically starting fresh, and it is a monumental task, but I would rather be working rather than sitting home wondering what the future holds for me,” Moore said. “I am very happy to be back in the game. This is a new chapter. I hated to leave the beach because we sold a lot of cars and had great customers, and in 24 years we were starting to serve fifth- and sixth-generation customers.”
Moore learned in May last year that GM was terminating its franchise agreements with him and other dealerships, including Crest Chevrolet in Arlington, as part of its bankruptcy restructuring process. Moore appealed, but shut down Dec. 31, only he and his executive assistant working there two days a week as he pursued his appeal.
With Crest Chevrolet gone from Arlington, plus lots of support and an admission from Moore that “I was very persistent,” Chevrolet indicated he could reopen a year ago. But Moore said it was with the stipulation that he move to Atlantic Boulevard because GM thinks “this is going to be the next growth market.”
Jack Caruso had operated a Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership at 10979 Atlantic Blvd. until it closed in the wake of Chrysler’s bankruptcy reorganization. Henry Martell was negotiating with Caruso to open First Coast Dodge at that Atlantic Boulevard site. As Moore awaited Chevrolet’s final approval, Martell secured the lease and opened in early June after Jacksonville Chrysler Jeep Dodge filed a state injunction to stop him, and failed. But days after opening, Martell closed, opening the way for Moore to sign a lease and move in.
“Jack has been nice enough to give us access for the building once we executed the lease July 16,” Moore said. “It has been so long since I opened a dealership, but I have been blessed that my core department heads have all come back.”
The new dealership needs all new equipment, and the staff started moving in Monday.
“We have been here from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day this week,” he said. “The biggest task at hand now is making the store conform to the new GM. They have given us the specs on colors and signage, and that is what we are accomplishing now at a rather rapid rate.”
Moore wants to open Wednesday, Dec. 1, with 100 new Chevrolets on order as they hire sales staff. He said it is a “great time to get back in the business” despite the economy, pointing to how much traffic passes his new store every day.
“I am between a Honda and Toyota store, and we will try to get the message out there that people have to give us the opportunity,” he said.
Will his Beaches customers cross the waterway to shop there? Moore said it only takes him 15 to 20 minutes to get there from his Beaches home.
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