BY KIM LUTTRELL
It has been a little more than four months since J.R. Fregia moved the Ford and Lincoln portion of his Courtesy automobile dealership to its new North Vermilion Street location and, if the past four months are any indication, it was a sound business move.
“We have seen a 25 percent increase in new Ford car sales and a 50 percent increase in used car sales over the same period last year since our move to North Vermilion,” Fregia said.
Fregia said the new retail businesses that are opening on North Vermilion should only add to the increased traffic he is already seeing.
“When we started planning this expansion, there were rumors about the new retail properties being planned for North Vermilion but nothing was definite,” Fregia said. “This North Vermilion location has a good traffic count and is very accessible to get to.”
“The West Main location probably has the highest traffic count in the county, and is an excellent location, but there just wasn’t the room to expand, at a cost we could afford,” Fregia said.
Fregia had actually begun planning his expansion some four years ago.
“I began working with the city on trying to put together some type of economic development plan then, but we just couldn’t put it all together at a price that was affordable,” Fregia said.
Fregia came to Danville nine years ago when he purchased the Courtesy Ford dealership.
“My father was a partner in a dealership in northern Illinois and I worked with him for several years,” Fregia said. “I finally figured that if I wanted to grow more professionally, I was going to have to find my own dealership.”
Fregia, a graduate of Florida A&M University, said he has been truly blessed since coming to Danville.
Fregia also has a brother who operates a Buick GMC dealership in the Chicagoland area.
“This is a community supported operation,” Fregia said. “We have had nothing but good things to say about the way the community has supported us since coming to town.”
Fregia also credits Mayor Scott Eisenhauer and the city council for their assistance in putting together the financial incentive package that allowed the move to happen.
“We wouldn’t be sitting up here on North Vermilion if it wasn’t for the support of the mayor and council,” Fregia said.
The city council approved both a sales tax-based incentive program as well as tax increment financing to help Fregia in the expansion.
The new site, which was the former site of Vermilion Chevrolet, is located on five acres.
“The building is actually bigger than what we needed,” Fregia said. “However, it will give us plenty of room to expand our services.”
Fregia has already added a $60,000 alignment machine that allows vehicle alignments to be done in a matter of minutes.
“We simply did not have room for this machine at our Main Street location,” he said. “This machine will tell you within two minutes of driving a vehicle on it what the alignment looks like.”
The machine is sized not only for cars and pickup trucks but for larger trucks as well.
Another part of the expansion that Fregia is excited about is the additional job opportunities.
“We have already added 10 new positions to our work force,” Fregia said. “We will continue to add technicians as they become available to us.”
With the expansion, Fregia said it also adds opportunities for advancement for employees.
“With this growth, we have the chance to allow people to grow in their field,” Fregia said. “When someone comes to work for us, we want them to think of it as a career and to be with us for a long time.”
For Fregia, his time is spent between the two dealerships. He normally spends his mornings at the Main Street site and afternoons at the Vermilion Street operation.
There also are changes coming to the Vermilion Street building. This spring the entire building will undergo a facelift.
“We will be remodeling to meet the Ford-designed dealership facade,” said Fregia. “We expect that work to begin in May.”