Bridgeport dealership to relocate to White Oaks

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 10:40 AM EST
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This article comes from our media partners at Connect Bridgeport.

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - The developer of White Oaks said recently they had a client in mind for the $2.9 million earth-moving and grading project currently taking place near the Interstate 79 southbound Saltwell exit.

While the new business will not be arriving for likely two years, it will come with a familiar name and a price tag that will top $10 million.

Recently, General Manager Matt Jenkins of the Jenkins Subaru and Jenkins Hyundai dealerships located in the same building on Lodgeville Road confirmed they will be relocating their operation to the site currently being prepped at White Oaks.

The move has nothing to do with things going bad at the current location. Instead, it has everything to do with needing to grow and not having the room to do so.

“Doing business here, in Bridgeport, has been wonderful. It’s a great community,” said Matt. “… This has been a great place, but we’ve outgrown the building.”

The emphasis is on the building. The lot, he said, is big enough to handle as many cars as needed. However, expanding the building correctly is a proposition that would only make the current situation worse as the property is essentially landlocked.

Even if the building could or would be expanded – and it was done three times by the previous owner Larry Myers and once by the Jenkins family – Matt said it loses more efficiency.

“It’s not tough to manage, but it’s an all-day affair getting things from one side to the other,” he said.

The other issue is that due to the volume of business done by both brands, the dealers have been seeking separate buildings featuring separate service departments and positions. That will happen at the new White Oaks site.

“We’ve been told by both that we can’t sell this many units and stay together,” he said. “You would like to keep it together because it’s easier to operate, a lot of economy scales, and individuals handling things for both. For instance, when we separate, we’ll have a service manager for Subaru and a service manager for Hyundai. The good news is that we’ll be much more efficient.”

John Jenkins, Matt’s father, and the dealer who has set up the multiple Jenkins auto dealerships in the region, said 2025 looks to be the planned year for construction to begin. He said the entire process will feature the finishing of the earth work at White Oaks, closing the current facility, and relocating into what will eventually be two new buildings sometime after 2025.

“We felt like we needed to do this now because there is no plan B. There is no property like that along (Interstate) 79,” said John. “We don’t want to stay here and end up with our growth getting behind the 8 ball in servicing vehicles and customer service and with nowhere to go.”

As for the size of the new buildings, John said that is not known. He said requirements will come from the manufactures but added that he would hope to make them a little bigger than dealer requirements.

The Jenkins family will assume 17.7 acres at White Oaks, 13.7 of which will be usable on what is a narrower parcel that what they would have preferred. The additional four acres will be hillside. All of the land is visible from the interstate. The current property, which can be seen from the northbound side of I-79, is roughly eight acres. The current building is roughly 4,600 square feet.

“The new buildings will be up front as opposed to the cars,” said Matt, who said the plan is to have electric charging stations as well at the location. “The buildings will be our billboards.”

There is also enough land to put in another franchise. John said they are not looking at any other franchises, but the acreage allows for that pursuit if the opportunity arises.

Although a building permit is well into the future, the cost of the land, building, and infrastructure needed will be a $10-million-plus endeavor, John said.

“This is going to be better for everyone involved. It’s better for us, it’s better for our employees, and it’s better for our customers,” said John. “Our customers are brand loyal, and we want to maintain that in the best way possible.”

John Jenkins offered praise to Woody Thrasher, Austin Thrasher, and White Oaks. He said the project creating flat land for the dealership is being done through Tax Increment Finance (TIF) dollars.

“People like Woody understand how to utilize TIF, and he and his people have been great to deal with,” John said.

The move is happening after the Jenkins brand expanded the building they acquired by filing for a city permit in 2015 at a cost of $2.2 million and acquiring the lower lot. The 2015 project was a service bay expansion. Then, in 2019, another project was done that graded and paved the lower lot and included a HVAC upgrade, and additional building renovations that pushed the project four years ago to nearly $1 million.

As for the Lodgeville property, the family has no plans on seeing it sit vacant.

“We don’t want it to sit here idle. It makes the city look bad and it doesn’t look good for us,” said John. “… We’re open minded about it. We’d even lease it to a group, say like a government agency. We just don’t want it idle.”

While needing to find a new home, Matt emphasized staying in the city was key. Many car dealers opt to do business outside of city limits to save money.

“We get a lot out of that. We’re associated with a city that has a good school system, a great community, The Bridge, and it’s all clean,” said Matt. “The dollars we pay to the city is reinvested in the city. They don’t sit on it.”

Andrew Jenkins, the assistant manager, and Matt’s brother, agreed.

“This is a great opportunity for us, and for Bridgeport. Bridgeport is growing so rapidly and we feel this move will be a great addition for Bridgeport,” he said. “The other big benefit is having that type of frontage on I-79 in Bridgeport. It is a positive thing for us as we move forward.”