As Russell Gwatney walks through his empty showroom at Saturn of Memphis, his employees' eyes follow him.
Gwatney was the 39-year-old son of a local Chevrolet dealer when he enthusiastically opened Saturn of Memphis as Saturn's first greenfield dealership in 1990. He delivered the Tennessee store, built to factory architectural specs, weeks ahead of Saturn's October introduction.
Now 58, Gwatney hustles to stay open through October -- a full 20-year span -- with no new inventory. He must keep 16 employees occupied and motivated long enough to transform the business.
His vision is multifaceted: Continue servicing 20 years of Saturn customers as an independent garage. Continue selling Saturn replacement parts. Become a used-car store. Use his people-friendly Saturn identity to recruit service business. Become a virtual used-car retailer, marketing warehoused vehicles online to buyers anywhere. Fill his showroom with racks of tires, hoses, wipers and other parts to become a do-it-yourself retailer like Sears and Memphis-based AutoZone.
"We're going to morph ourselves," Gwatney says. "I've talked to all the people here about creating a service reputation that builds on our history as a Saturn dealer."