The past few years produced a few hiccups for Rob Marshall, a northern Kentucky auto dealer accustomed to steady sales and showroom traffic.
His Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership along Interstate 75 south of Cincinnati survived Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy. Marshall's Toyota store, just down the interstate in Dry Ridge, weathered the automaker's recall crisis.
But like many dealers, Marshall has battled the occasional crisis of confidence during the industry's meltdown.
When new domestic franchise opportunities arose in recent years -- some "for nothing," he says -- the second-generation dealer was too spooked about the future of Detroit's automakers to jump in.
Through it all, he kept an eye on the future -- fortitude that paid off with the late-August opening of a $6 million, 35,000-square-foot Toyota-Scion store. It's nearly twice the size of his former Toyota store across the street, and it's not your ordinary dealership.
There is now room for more than 300 vehicles, addressing a top customer concern. A 2007 study by J.D. Power and Associates found that the No. 1 problem customers had with his store was the limited selection of cars and light trucks.
Beyond the bright showroom with 16 skylights, there's a customer lounge with stone fireplace, an exercise room, a small fish pond with waterfall and "Lori's Cafe."
The 44-year old dealer knows his customers in this conservative rural farm community. And it shows in every detail.
Many departments and offices are enclosed in glass to allow customers to see their vehicle while it is being serviced or detailed. During the planning phase, the lounge was doubled in size after customers, in an informal "nitpick session" with Marshall, said they wanted a larger waiting area.
"The typical customer here is fiercely independent and doesn't like to be kept behind a wall," Marshall says.
A church, a quilting club, the fire department and the local newspaper plan to use the community room when it's not used for staff training.