Happy Birthday, boss! Let's open some stores

Smith: Two reasons to celebrate on Oct. 20.

Sonic Automotive President Scott Smith will get a special birthday present when he turns 47 on Oct. 20. That's the day Sonic plans to open the first of its stand-alone used-car stores in Denver.

Jeff Dyke, Sonic's executive vice president of operations, said he picked the opening day, thinking it would make for a good birthday gift for the boss. Sonic plans to open a "big chunk" of the planned Denver locations that day, he said, with more to come 90 days later. Prelaunch advertising in Denver is set to begin in mid-September.

With the Denver opening, Sonic kicks off an ambitious plan to open a network of used-car stores across the nation that company executives have suggested eventually could number in the hundreds.

Dyke isn't sharing the name of the stores yet. "I can promise you there's no way you could guess it," he said.

But the project got a code-name -- Tree Trunk -- as executives brainstormed about how large the venture ultimately could grow.

"I said, 'No, no, no. You guys aren't looking high enough,'" Smith recalled recently. "You need to look much, much larger. Mama Sonic is going to be nothing more than a branch on this thing. It's just going to be so huge. It's the tree trunk."