John Dionas had been working in the car business for 20 years in Washington state, gradually rising from car washer to general manager of Tacoma Nissan-Subaru in Tacoma, Wash.
But he wanted his own dealership. He was seriously considering the purchase of one in Tacoma, about 30 miles from his home, when he happened upon an available Subaru store in tiny Gorst, Wash. The city, with a population of about 1,750, is only a 10-minute drive from his home in Gig Harbor.
"It was meant to be," he says.
With no family ties, just a solid reputation locally, Dionas quit his job and began a seven-month process to gain the point; he was awarded the franchise in April 2001.
A modest Dionas, 39, now president and owner, describes himself as an "ugly duckling" with a "Cinderella story" - but that could describe his store as well.
The site had endured 14 wet Pacific Northwest winters and was shopworn. And it was run by an absentee owner, so it lacked the spark provided by a hands-on dealer. Monthly new-car sales hovered in the upper 20s.