Horticulture and Hemis

Dealer A. William Golling III resists the temptation of daily walking about the building site of his impending Golling Chrysler Jeep Dodge superstore to see how work is progressing. I drive by it every day, he says. But I only stop in about once a week. I don't want to get in the way. Golling succumbed to temptation by giving a visitor a tour of the project site, pointing out what will go where and

Dealer A. William Golling III resists the temptation of daily walking about the building site of his impending Golling Chrysler Jeep Dodge superstore to see how work is progressing.

“I drive by it every day,” he says. “But I only stop in about once a week. I don't want to get in the way.”

Golling succumbed to temptation by giving a visitor a tour of the project site, pointing out what will go where and using words to build an image of what it will all look like.

It may be a fenced-in, messy construction zone now. But it will be a dealership showpiece when the tri-brand store opens in May on busy Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Township, MI.

The 15-acre site will feature an 80,000-sq.-ft. brick building, a boulevard entrance with room to display 600 cars in front and lush landscaping that includes 2,500 trees, bushes and flowers.

It will be one of the largest and certainly one of the most generously landscaped Chrysler Jeep Dodge stores in the U.S. It may be the only auto dealership in the nation with a full-time gardener on site

“We wanted to provide great customer-friendly features in beautiful natural surroundings,” says Golling. “A well-landscaped place invites you in. It adds to the aesthetic value of the store, it's good for the environment, and it will make everyone feel better, even if they are just driving by.”

Executives at DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group already feel good about the project. A corporate officers corps, led by Chrysler CEO and President Dieter Zetsche, attended the groundbreaking.

It's the latest of Chrysler Group's Alpha dealerships that feature the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicle models all under one roof (but in separate showroom settings). Such fullsize stores are being built in major markets. Golling's will be the first in metro Detroit.

“Dealers such as Bill Golling are doing what they are doing because they're confident in our products,” says Chrysler Group Chief Operating Officer Tom LaSorda. “I tell our people that we have to spend money on product development because our dealers are spending their money on facilities to sell those products.”

Currently Golling sells Dodges, Jeeps and Chryslers in a scattering of small stores up the road. There are a total of five buildings and 150 employees here and there. Despite the compact and disparate quarters, Golling expects his current stores will deliver 4,200 new vehicles and about 6,500 used units this year.

He became a Chrysler Plymouth dealer in 1983, then acquired a Jeep franchise and last year, with partner Ed Levy, bought a nearby Dodge store from the estate of Andy Anderson, a multi-franchise dealer who died at age 48 of pancreatic cancer.

“When we acquired the Dodge store, we decided to build the new facility,” says Golling. “We're doing it for our employees, our customers and the future, as opposed to doing business from those small pop stands nearby.”

He declines to say what the new place will cost. He notes new facilities typically increase vehicle sales by 15%. “I can see us doing more than that here,” he says, considering the size, scope and quality of what's being built.

There will be themed showrooms with different decors, such as marble in the Chrysler “salon,” a sporty theme in the Dodge sales section and an outdoors motif in the Jeep showroom.

Other features: a customer service lounge with Web access, a carpeted and glass-enclosed children's play area and a coffee bar and cafe.

Planned for the back end are two quick oil-change bays, 24 service bays, 16 body shop bays and a “Speed Shop” selling Chrysler's Mopar parts and accessories.

At a time when some dealers are closing their body shops, Golling is making his bigger and better.

He foresees service department repairs declining because of improved quality of today's vehicles. “But people are going to make mistakes while driving, and so there will be crashed cars to repair,” he says.

In a sign of the times, the new dealership will include separate service department locker-room facilities for women.

“The trend is toward more women service employees,” says Golling. “We currently have a female technician and three female service advisors. At the old facility, they have to change in the women's restroom.”

The site of the new dealership formerly contained a movie theater complex. It went out of business and since has been razed.

“We had been looking for property for years for a new facility, and then, boom, this land became available about the same time we acquired the Dodge dealership,” says Golling.

“It seemed like fate, but I'll tell you,” he says, stepping around a row of steel beams on the ground, “when we first considered a project of this magnitude, the emotions ranged from absolute excitement to absolute terror. Once we started, though, I've had no regrets.”

Plenty of Plants

Due to open in May, Golling Chrysler Jeep Dodge store will be home to nearly 2,500 trees, plants and flowers.

They include:

  • 28 Skyline Honey Locust trees
  • 22 Greenspire Linden trees
  • 45 October Glory Red Maple trees
  • 6 Colorado Blue Spruce trees
  • 16 Eastern White Pine trees
  • 38 Sea Green Juniper trees
  • 171 Wardi yews bushes
  • 32 Blue Rug junipers bushes
  • 264 Inkberry bushes
  • 39 Anthony Waterer Spiraea bushes
  • 42 Dixieland Japanese Silver Grass
  • 242 Hameln Fountain Grass
  • 51 Wine and Roses Weigela bushes
  • 703 Daylilies
  • 109 Near Wild Rose bushes
  • 304 Black Eyed Susans
  • 136 Hostas
  • 24 existing trees to remain
  • 10 existing trees transplanted
  • 100s of annual flowers each year

Bill Golling III: From Porter to Dealer

A. William Golling III shows the work in progress at his Chrysler Jeep Dodge superstore.

A. William Golling III's first dealership job was as a 15-year-old porter at one of his dad's stores.

His father was a former Chrysler Corp. zone manager in Syracuse, NY, before becoming a Volkswagen dealer. He died five years ago.

“I wish my dad were here to see this,” Golling, 53, says of the mega-dealership he's constructing in Bloomfield Township, MI.

He and his partner Ed Levy own two other dealerships, including a Pontiac GMC store in Lake Orion, MI, and a Dodge store that Levy runs in Dayton, OH.

A life-long metro Detroit resident (born at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit), Golling is active in community affairs, especially youth hockey as a trustee of the USA Hockey Club of Michigan and as a junior varsity coach.

He's the father of two sons, ages 19 and 16. The oldest is a sophomore taking business classes at Michigan State University.

“I'd like to see my sons come into the dealership business,” says the second-generation dealer.

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