Crest Ford prepares to expand next door

East Lyme - Crest Ford has purchased property next door to its auto dealership on Flanders Road in anticipation of an expansion.

Jim Leva, co-owner of Crest Ford, said he completed the purchase of a vacant former doctor's office a couple of weeks ago that will allow for perhaps 30 automobiles to be added to his dealership's inventory, which numbers about 180. In addition, the dealership is doing site work at its current location to allow for another 30 or so vehicles, he said, bringing the total inventory up to about 240.

"We didn't have enough parking," Leva said.

Leva said he will be applying for permits to knock down the office space - previously leased by Dr. Neil Palker and associates - that sits between the dealership at 218 Flanders Road and Illiano's Restaurant.

It's possible, he said, that the extra space will allow the dealership to add another automotive line besides Ford.

"Our sales have increased," said Leva, a Madison resident. "We're real strong in the community."

Leva and his partner, Dick Fitzpatrick, purchased the former Plaza Ford dealership about a year and a half ago, after it had been relocated from a previous site at Flanders Four Corners to make way for a Rite Aid pharmacy. At the beginning, the property contained only 14 new cars and six used cars, but it has since expanded to 50 used cars, 50 new trucks and 80 new cars.

At the same time, Leva said, the dealership has gone from nine to 19 employees, and he expects to add more people after the latest expansion.

"We do business the old-fashioned way," Leva said. "There's no high pressure."

Leva said the Ford line has been strong this year, particularly its four-cylinder economy vehicles and hybrids such as the Ford Fusion. The F-150 pickup truck with an "eco-boost" engine also has been a top seller, he said.

"Ford Motor Company, fortunately for us, has a lot of good programs right now," Leva said.

He added that a lot of customers also mention the fact that Ford was able to survive on its own while other American car makers have needed government help to make it through tough times in the auto industry.

"Ford didn't take bailout money," Leva said.

l.howard@theday.com

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