NASHVILLE -- Nissan dealer Greg Smith, a real estate developer who was permitted to build a store in downtown Seattle that was hip to visit but bore little similarity to the automaker's retail design guidelines, is closing his store after less than two years.
Smith informed customers and business vendors on Tuesday that he will close Stadium Nissan today. The urban store displayed new vehicles on the street curb and its dark concrete interior walls gave the small store the look of a bohemian art gallery or a skateboard shop.
It opened with some fanfare in late 2010 with the blessings of Nissan North America management, even as field managers pressed other dealers around the country to get in line with the automaker's store design rules.
Smith was profiled by Automotive News last year as a case of a new dealer strategically varying from the factory design rules to fit his market. He did not return calls or emails about the closing.
A store employee confirmed that the store is closing.
Nissan had no dealership in downtown Seattle when it recruited Smith, who owned a local coffee retail company and built environmentally attuned office buildings. Smith believed Seattle's free-spirited, grunge-rock youth culture would embrace Nissan's electric vehicle plans. But he reasoned that a traditional factory-designed dealership would be too square for the hometown of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.
Nissan officials permitted him to use a row of warehouse storefronts on a narrow street, with old steel freight elevator doors serving as office partitions and big industrial ceiling fans taking the place of central air conditioning. Pedestrians often entered the dealership just to admire the décor.
News of Smith's store caused some grumbling among his fellow dealers. And Nissan officials later said that Smith's facility was only temporary, and that he would eventually follow the company Nissan Retail Environmental Design Initiative guidelines.
Greg Smith, left, with executive manager Kevin Riordan in a 2011 photo.
A company spokesman declined to discuss Stadium Nissan's closing.
A statement issued by Nissan said, "Nissan dealers are independent businesses, and therefore must make their own decisions regarding their operations. We are disappointed that Mr. Smith has chosen to close, however we must honor his decision to do so."