Against the backdrop of a country deep in recession and one industry in particular, the car industry, smarting from government bailouts and national closures, there is the remarkable success story of .
Dwight Dachnowicz, only now turning 40, was the youngest owner of a Honda dealership in the country when he bought the site at 480 S. Broadway five years ago. He was a salesman who worked his way up the ladder to corporate, returned to sales, and found himself taking a huge leap to buy his own dealership in an area once under his responsibility.
Since November 2006, rather than scale back as many business owner's must, Dachnowicz has been all about growth: expanding hours, opening daily, increasing inventory. Some stats: The previous owner sold 280 used and 120 new Hondas a year; now they sell 2,400 and 1,200 respectively. There used to be 16 employees; now they boast 52.
If you’ve visited this showroom you feel the buzz immediately – a healthy amount of customers, an abundance of salespeople, but not very much room to show.
Just when he's finally reached a level of financial comfort here, Dachnowicz is again taking a big risk and throwing in a ton of money to demolish the place and build it up again. The plans sitting in the building office, pending final approval from the Architectural Review Board, are impressive – two stories, taking over a portion of adjacent street Sheldon Street and buying a home, and turning it all into a state-of-the-art facility. The proposed footprint of the three-phase proposal will grow from its current 15,270 square feet to 28,386.
There’s no recession in Dachnowicz’s world. Though you might not be in the market for a car this holiday season, he might just talk you into it.
So go buy local and say hello to:
Dwight Dachnowicz, owner of
1. Personal stuff first: do you live here, what’s your family situation, and, of course, what do you drive?
DD: My wife would argue that I live here. I live in New Jersey, near Morristown, in Bernards Township [over an hour's drive from here]. I have twin five-year-olds (it gets better, I can say that)… I put in a 120 miles a day, so I buy used. I have a 4-cylinder Accord with a navigation system. I’ve never owned a car that wasn’t a Honda. It started when I talked my mom into buying a ’84 Accord. I slept with that brochure under my pillow.
2. So you’re in the throes of going before the Board with your giant rebuild plan; how are you finding the approval process? And what's your anticipated timeline?
DD: I just got my head out of water but if you want something to last another 30 years you have to invest back in the business. It’s a well-thought-out design that works within the property. The building is tired; the bulk of it is from the ‘40s. We will tear down most of it and start over.
The Board has been great, recommending stone and gables and things that fit in with the neighborhood. As a business owner, would I love to get a stamp and move forward? Absolutely. But not only are these people my neighbors, they're my customers. The review process makes me take it all into consideration; it’s good they have that. There will be a lot of innovations: a green roof, water catch basins for rain run-off, state of the art drainage… Much to Tarrytown’s credit. The Mayor really petitioned for green initiatives. It was a perfect tie-in. Honda wants green. I want efficient. We will be the first officially green Honda facility in the U.S.
After, and if, we get approved I'm looking at 4 to 6 months to have a shovel in the ground. Contractor estimates are 12 to 18 months for the work.
3. How do you account for your success in this climate?
DD: The thing that really differentiates my store is it’s individually owned and operated. Corporate ownership is expensive; they can’t afford their own infrastructure. When things were tighter, I wouldn’t pay myself. It’s really about the store’s future at this point. Being the owner/operator, I’m here every day, being hands on. I never had lay offs. There’s what Honda calls the ASA, the Area Statistical Analysis. This area is so Honda-friendly, it’s unbelievable. The previous dealer [here since 1944], just didn’t sell the people in his market. Now it’s over 90% of the Hondas purchased in the Tarrytown area were purchased here. He sold 13% of his market.
4. How did you manage to buy this property at such a young age?
DD: I borrowed every penny. I did the whole thing, mortgage the house... It was my goal to buy my own store and luckily back then the banks were willing to lend. I actually had a Honda Rewards card that I used to do the final carpeting on the facility. That’s how tight it was.
5. Has it been worth it?
DD: Other than success-by-debt-propulsion, I enjoy it. You have to love coming to work every day. How many times in your life do you have the opportunity to own your own Honda dealership? If this is all you ever have, one dealership in a great location, it’s worth it.