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Fort Worth Honda Dealership has a Dog Park, Gym and a Recycled Car Wash

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author photo by Autotrader February 2011

A recent visit to one of Honda’s newest retail facilities validates Honda’s original slogan: You meet the Nicest People on a Honda. It’s a $15 million, 90,000 square foot facility in Fort Worth –- the handiwork of Corrie Watson and her partner/brother, Will Churchill. Frank Kent Honda, through their design and insight, would make one Soichiro Honda very proud.

Beyond the sheer size of the facility are several unique areas that, in our opinion, push this dealership way over the top. A workout facility for employees is under construction, the shop has a clean-up/change area for both male and female techs, and the dog park’s grass needs only to take hold this spring for the pets of Honda customers and prospects to walk, run and play at their leisure. And despite its size, Frank Kent Honda is designed to minimize its environmental footprint. An obvious example is the onsite carwash, relying on recycled water for all of its car bathing.

The Frank Kent story goes back some seventy-five years. With a Buick operation in Lubbock and partnership in a Fort Worth Buick franchise serving as his apprenticeship, the still-young Kent opened Frank Kent Motor Company, a Ford and Lincoln operation in downtown Fort Worth, in 1935. In 1953 Frank obtained the Cadillac franchise/distributorship, divesting himself of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury; this was long before cross-pollination of automotive franchises, the mega-dealer, or – for that matter – Alan Mulally.

The Honda operation is, of course, more contemporary, having been purchased by Corrie and Will’s mother (and Frank’s granddaughter), Wendy Kent Churchill, in 1992. The impetus for the new Honda showroom began with the recognition that as Honda’s market penetration increased, so did the need for an upgraded retail presence while maintaining a traditional, family-centered approach. To be sure, Honda’s corporate requirements differ from Cadillac, Lexus or Audi, but a retail commitment commensurate with Honda’s corporate commitment is regarded as a baseline for doing the business. Corrie and Will’s new – and strengthened – commitment began some seven or eight years ago with the first purchases of acreage that now supports the new dealership.

With multiple owners, the forty-five acre plot was obtained in a series of starts and stops. And once assembled, the creek that rendered much of the property ‘unbuildable’ had to be diverted; that – of course – opens its own can of regulatory worms. For the structure Honda provides a set of guidelines (written, we’re told, on scrolls…). Within those guidelines and requirements Corrie and Will laid out their own vision of the ideal retail facility.

Of course, it’s not the square acreage that underpins the Frank Kent approach to automotive retail; it’s eye contact and a very sincere effort – on the part of Corrie, Will and Frank Kent management. Admittedly, the exterior of Frank Kent Honda is impressive enough. But it’s when entering the showroom, politely greeted by both a youngish salesman and an equally friendly receptionist, that the differences become tangible. While the sales manager’s corner office isn’t a surprise, the backdrop of original art – a depiction of rock legends by a talented North Texas artist – is. And original art is distributed throughout the facility, representing just one more original imprint on a dealership chock full of them.

Arriving at the showroom just before the cafeteria’s 3:30 closing, I’m enticed by the smells – wonderful smells – wafting from the late lunch menu, and enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee. This is not the Mercedes-Benz showroom on Dallas’ ‘Miracle Mile’, but a Honda store on Fort Worth’s west side. The showroom’s square footage allows room for the entire lineup, with CR-Z and Civic sharing space with Pilot and Odyssey. Sales people – and their customers – sit around open conversation areas. The buying process, however, sometimes requires privacy. Those needs are addressed by private areas available off the showroom. .

Dirt for the new dealership began moving in 2008, while groundbreaking began in December, 2009. One year later, on Friday, December 3rd, Watson and Churchill hosted a Grand Opening for some 500 adults, followed by a family-centric celebration on Saturday. And if the great grandchildren of Frank Kent didn’t speak to the store’s family-centric operation, the kids’ playroom adjacent to the customer waiting area will. It’s a romper room fully appropriate to those not yet licensed to drive; the new CR-Z or Insight will come later.

The dealership’s grand opening took place just 75 years after Frank Kent began his retail journey in Fort Worth. On his own at the height of this country’s Great Depression, we think Mr. Kent would applaud Corrie and Will’s project, finished in the shadow of our Great Recession.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Fort Worth Honda Dealership has a Dog Park, Gym and a Recycled Car Wash - Autotrader