By Colleen Mahoney

Emerling Ford’s new facility on South Cascade Drive in Springville is now officially open!

It’s been a long process, said General Manager John Woodruff, who explained that the dealership applied for Ford Motor Company funding four years ago when Ford offered financing to dealerships across the country.

Emerling Ford was one of the lucky dealerships that was awarded funding and began its renovations in 2016. The dealership remained open throughout the work, moving the sales representatives into portable trailers outside the building. On March 7, the sales representatives were moved back into a “not quite done” building, according to General Manager John Woodruff.

“Those trailers were terrible, they were cold during the winter,” Woodruff recalled. “I would never ask my employees to do something I wouldn’t do … so I took one for the team and took the office right by the door that opened 100 times a day.”

Although the accommodations weren’t the best, Woodruff said it was worth it when they held their grand re-opening on July 20. The event showed off the new building, inviting community members and customers to take a tour of the newly renovated building.

“We had over 400 people … in our [door prize] drawings,” Woodruff said. “Everybody loved it. The customers who hadn’t seen it yet … they loved it.”

The renovation expanded the dealership’s footprint by 4,000 square feet, giving them more office and service space and the ability to provide two customer-waiting lounges.

Walking in the front doors, customers are greeted with a front desk backed by a fully-functioning fireplace. The area is open, allowing customers to get a clear view of the showroom. The offices of the sales representatives, which line the outer walls, were built without a fourth wall or doors.

“We wanted to stay transparent to our customers,” Woodruff explained. “It was important they see what’s going on.”

Keeping the building with open sight lines wasn’t the only renovation that kept the needs of the customer in mind.

In the showroom, there is a quiet lounge near the fireplace. A computer “bar” allows customers to bring their own devices and stay connected, or use the computer provided by Emerling. The second lounge, near the service department, has a big-screen TV and coffee for customers.

In addition to the lounges, a drive-up service garage adjacent to the service desk can accommodate up to six vehicles. Woodruff explained that service customers can pull into the garage, and walk to the service desk without having to go outside in inclement weather. Emerling Ford now also has a delivery garage for new vehicles, where customers can pick up their vehicles.

“We wanted it to be nice, to be right,” Woodruff said. “Everyone put in ideas, we worked together to make this customer and employee friendly.”

Working together as a dealership team isn’t a new concept for President Carl Emerling, Vice President Evan Emerling and the Emerling Ford employees. Woodruff said they operate knowing that employee satisfaction equals customer satisfaction. As general manager, he leads by example, picking up extra work if it needs to be done.

“If the toilet needs to be cleaned, I do it, we all work together,” he said.

The team of 84 employees, Woodruff said, works well together because they’ve been together for a while. Of the total number of employees at Emerling Ford, 22 have been with the dealership for 20 years and 36 have more than 10 years with Emerling.

Woodruff was named general manager in August of 1986 when the dealership opened on West Main Street, and he still has two employees, Randy Oakes and Bob Fancher, who were original employees, who moved with the dealership to its South Cascade location in 1989 and stayed during the 2015 renovation.

Retention of employees helps keep the dealership operating smoothly, Woodruff said. They’ve gotten into a rhythm, which helps communication between departments.

“We’re nice to each other. We don’t fight, we don’t care for that,” he said.

Being nice to people extends to the customer, of course, and is one of the reasons Emerling Ford was awarded its 19th consecutive President’s Award in June. Joining only two other dealerships in the country who have accomplished that streak, Woodruff said Emerling Ford’s commitment to being nice to people is what got them there.

“We’re nice to people, that’s it. Very seldom do we have an unhappy customer,” he said. “Obviously you can’t make everyone happy … but if you don’t try you didn’t do your job.”

In addition to customer satisfaction, the President’s Award looks at sales expectancy and purchases. To be eligible, dealerships must have a 90 percent sales expectancy; in 2015 Emerling Ford had a 357.4 percent sales expectancy. They also received between 600 and 700 customer surveys, distributed by Ford Motor Company, and had the highest customer satisfaction rate in the Pittsburgh region.

“That’s huge. That’s from West Virginia to Cleveland [Ohio] to Rochester to Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania],” he said. “We’re just a well-oiled machine.”