Building a better buying experience: New Oakes dealership under construction

Published 12:10 am Sunday, November 15, 2015

Construction crews with Wilmar Construction move dirt to make way for the new Oakes Toyota dealership. (Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat

Construction crews with Wilmar Construction move dirt to make way for the new Oakes Toyota dealership. (Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — With the goal of giving Miss-Lou consumers a “unique” car-buying experience, the owners of Oakes Toyota have broken ground on a new dealership on U.S. 61 South.

The new facility will be a “state of the art,” $5 million, 25,000-square foot dealership and service shop on 3.5 acres of land between Trinity Episcopal Day School and the Roux 61 restaurant, general manager Bill Cronn said.

“It’s going to be a well-lit, state of the art building,” Cronn said. “Customers are going to have a unique buying experience that is unlike any other dealership in town. Toyota dealership buildings are based on a generational design, and this will be the fifth generation, so it is literally going to be Toyota’s newest and brightest facility in Mississippi.”

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Oakes owner Bryan Oakes said the idea for a new Toyota location has been in the works since 2006, when Toyota approached the dealership’s former owners with the idea.

While Oakes made some improvements to the aging current location on D’Evereux Drive — including to the service department — the new location was always a part of the picture, he said.

“When I purchased the facility, I made an agreement with Toyota that within 18 months I would upgrade, and this is me fulfilling that agreement,” he said.

Those upgrades should get under way next week, as crews are slated to start working on the foundation and plumbing of the building.

When it’s completed, the front of the building will be a new, modern showroom with floor to ceiling glass and all new furniture and fixtures.

Those who find occasion to go to the new dealership will also have a choice on how they spend any downtime they have there, whether buying a car or having one they already own serviced.

“The showroom will house four different makes (of vehicle), and when you walk off into the waiting area, there will be two different types of waiting area,” Oakes said.

“One will be a kind of play zone area for kids with TVs and refreshments, and the other will be a separate, quiet waiting area for people who just want to read a book.”

The main part of the building will also have new, modern parts facilities with accessories, including items such as hats and coats.

“It’ll be like a little shopping area for your vehicle,” Oakes said.

The service entrance of the new dealership will be designed so customers actually drive into the building before they exit their vehicles.

“It’s going to be fully enclosed, heated and cooled,” Oakes said. “That way, if it’s raining, sleeting, snowing or whatever, the customer doesn’t have to wait around in the weather, and when everything is done the vehicle will be brought back to you in the same spot.”

Beyond a new, cleaner building, the new location will also allow Oakes to offer more vehicles.

“Where we stock about 60 vehicles now, we are going to stock about 160 new and 60 used vehicles, so we will have a better selection for people so they don’t have to go to Baton Rouge, Jackson or Brookhaven to buy their cars.

“I want people to feel like they can shop local at a nice, clean, new facility and leave their tax dollars in Adams County.”

Oakes said he choose the physical location for the new dealership in part because he wanted the dealership to be inside the Natchez city limits and part of the community.

“Any community I go into, I want to be a part of that community,” he said. “The first thing I do is join the Chamber of Commerce, and then I buy local as much as I can. I chose to buy in the city limits to support the City of Natchez as much as possible, and I hope they support me.”