Toyota, Volvo of Warren Building $4.5M Showroom

NILES, Ohio – Even with trees standing on the future home of Toyota and Volvo of Warren, co-owner Jim Whetstone envisions a building that serves as more than just a car dealership for Niles.

In the showroom, customers would find a 1,000-square-foot lounge with televisions, computers, a snack bar and a coffee bar. They could drop off their cars for service or pick up a delivery indoors, never setting foot outside.

“We see it in other markets where we develop relationships with people. They stop in to hang out, grab a coffee and talk about sports,” Whetstone said at the dealership’s groundbreaking Wednesday. “It’s very much a part of what we want to do.”

Whetstone is partner with The Whetstone Auto Group, which operates 10 dealerships in southeastern and northeastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York.

The new dealership, under construction just north of the intersection of state Route 46 and U.S. Route 422, will occupy 26,000 square feet on a 5½-acre lot with room for 400 cars. The showroom, Whetstone said, would be about four times the size of the current dealership, 3810 Youngstown Road SE. Construction on the $4.5-million project should be completed in 10 or 11 months.

At the groundbreaking, many marveled at how far Niles and the Route 422 corridor have come over the years. Joey Marzullo, a Whetstone Auto Group partner who grew up in Niles, remembers when a horse farm and doctor’s office occupied the site.

“They’ve always been supportive of businesses and I think that in the next three or four years they’ll boom, which is always great for a community,” he said. “The community has really come together to support this state-of-the-art facility and it’ll help everyone around us.”

Construction of new dealerships isn’t something that comes along often, Whetstone said, noting this is only the second he can remember in the past 25 years.

“I believe it’s just this and one in Cortland, but there may be another,” he said. “This doesn’t happen often. I’ve lived here my whole life and I can tell you this is a big deal.”

On hand at the groundbreaking were Trumbull County and Niles officials, a dozen Toyota and Volvo of Warren employees, workers from C. Tucker Cope & Associates, general contractor for the project, and representatives from Toyota.

“We have product launches and those are very near and dear to us,” said Dante Wyatt, district manager for Toyota. “For dealerships, this is their product launch. It’s part of who they are. It’s a very big deal. It’s celebrates a new start for a dealership with a lot of history here.”

The new location, about two miles from the current site, should also bring more business to the dealership, general manager Tino Merlo said. With the dealership just off Route 422, traffic along that corridor will still be accessible, but the new site will also improve access from state Route 82 and Interstate 80.

“There’s a much heavier traffic flow here, which gives us more visibility,” he said. “We won’t know the numbers until we get here, but what we’ve looked at with Toyota have been astounding. Whether we can achieve that remains to be seen, but the numbers will increase significantly.”

With the groundbreaking, Whetstone showed his excitement in building something in his hometown. He’s built new dealerships elsewhere. Here, however, the pieces are at last falling into place.

“Since I’ve lived here my whole life, I’m excited to finally be able to do it in the community I live in,” he said. “With this market evolving and expanding, we knew this was the place to be.”

Pictured: Tino Marulo, general manager; Joey Marzullo, partner, Jim Whetstone Auto Group; Jim Whetstone, co-owner, Toyota and Volvo of Warren; Tucker Cope Jr., vice president, C. Tucker Cope & Associates; Dante Wyatt, district manager for Toyota; Brian Hickey, dealer facilities manager; Andy Hiply, C. Tucker Cope & Associates project manager.

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