After starting with just one auto dealership and expanding it to nine with several related auto businesses, Toledo area auto dealer Yark Automotive Group has decided to throw a big party to celebrate three decades in business.
Yark Automotive plans a 30th anniversary party at all its locations from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday that will include catering and entertainment.
"We wanted to show our appreciation to customers," said Warren Vess, marketing director for Yark Automotive, with headquarters at 6019 West Central Ave. in Sylvania Township.
The original dealership was owned by local auto dealer Ted Papenhagen, who operated an Oldsmobile dealership on the West Central site with Yark founder Jim Yark serving as the late Mr. Papenhagen's "apprentice" of sorts. Mr. Yark was business manager, service director, director of leasing, leasing manager, used-car manager, and finally, general manager of the Olds dealership until he finally purchased it from Mr. Papenhagen in October, 1981.
However, the name wasn't changed until February, 1983, when it became Jim Yark Olds. Shortly after taking over, Mr. Yark added an AMC Jeep Renault dealership -- a move that would launch the growth of his firm and force him to change the name later to Yark Automotive to reflect the many brands the company sold.
Yark Automotive began with just $20 million in sales and 50 employees after taking over from Mr. Papenhagen, and has grown into a business with $200 million in sales and 300 employees. For the last 16 years, the company has been the largest new and used vehicle dealership in the region with nine vehicle franchises -- BMW, Nissan, Subaru, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Fiat. The firm sold 2,851 vehicles last year, 1,000 more than its nearest competitor, according to the Toledo Automobile Dealers Association.
The company recently pulled off a coup, becoming metro Toledo's first Fiat dealership, located at 6000 West Central, in 30 years as the Italian automaker looked to establish new franchises in the United States after its purchase of Chrysler.
Yark Automotive also has six pre-owned-vehicle lots, a body shop, a car rental company, and a retail and wholesale parts department.
Mr. Vess said the company felt so proud of its achievements that it wanted to celebrate and show off its new Fiat showroom as well as its new Suburu showroom at 6141 West Central.
"We're just very excited. But having a good business plan, as Jim would tell anyone, was all about having the right people. Those people …were the ones that made the difference with the customers," Mr. Vess said.