Lyme dealership has cars, boats to sell, a legacy to preserve

Kathryn Reynolds Wayland and Hayden Reynolds, the sixth generation of the Reynolds family, stand in the showroom at Reynolds Subaru in Lyme Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The company recently celebrated 25 years as a Subaru dealership and is the oldest car dealership on the east coast continuously operated by the same family, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Kathryn Reynolds Wayland and Hayden Reynolds, the sixth generation of the Reynolds family, stand in the showroom at Reynolds Subaru in Lyme Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The company recently celebrated 25 years as a Subaru dealership and is the oldest car dealership on the east coast continuously operated by the same family, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Lyme — When Reynolds’ Subaru began mapping out the new facility it opened last fall, creature comforts were on the table.

Now, they’re in place: a waterfront patio; a deck overlooking Hamburg Cove; a customer lounge replete with a fireplace, a coffee bar and a play area for kids; private offices; a conference room; and ample storage space. In the 12-bay service area, the floor emanates radiant heat.

“We wanted to make sure it was comfortable for us and for our customers,” said the dealership’s president and general manager, G. Hayden Reynolds Jr.

His twin sister, Kathryn Reynolds Wayland, the chief executive officer, added: "We anticipate being here for a while."

In this town, it might seem like the family's already been around forever.

Hayden and Kathryn, both 44, and their brother L. Thomas “Tom” Reynolds, 48, vice president and general manager of Reynolds’ Boats, represent the sixth generation of Reynoldses to enter the family business. Ephraim Otis Reynolds, their great-great-great-grandfather, got things started when he began fashioning horse-drawn carriages by hand in 1859.

One male member from each of the clan’s second, third, fourth and fifth generations kept things going.

And there's no end in sight. Hayden, Kathryn and Tom have eight children among them, their ages ranging from 3 to 21 years old. Some have begun filling in on the reception desk and helping with filing.

In 2009, it was time to celebrate 150 years in business. Then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell proclaimed April 9 “Reynolds' Garage & Marine Day” in Connecticut, and the Reynolds family self-published a history whose title had long been their business motto: “Big Enough To Serve You. Small Enough To Know You.”

“When you’re young, you don’t appreciate the story, but now that we’re older we do,” Kathryn said.

On the National Automobile Dealers Association’s list of U.S. dealerships that have been in the transportation business for more than a century, Reynolds’ Garage & Marine ranks as the third oldest.

'Eco-friendly' features

Conceived, designed and built over a three-year period, Reynolds’ Subaru’s 22,500-square-foot facility opened for business in September, combining the dealership’s showroom and service areas, which used to occupy separate structures. A main house and two outbuildings on the property were razed. In November, the grand opening also marked the family’s 25-year affiliation with Subaru of New England.

Previous Reynolds generations have sold and serviced Peugeots, Rover/Land Rovers and Studebakers among other brands.

Hayden Reynolds called attention to the new building’s “eco-friendly” features, including the LED lighting activated by sensors and faucets that automatically shut off. For more than 20 years, he said, the dealership has been burning its waste oil to heat its buildings, which it continues to do. The new building was designed to accommodate solar panels that have yet to be installed.

“None of it changes our area of responsibility,” he said, noting that the number of Reynolds’ Subaru customers continues to grow, as do their expectations. The 30-minute oil change is now a standard amenity.

The expansion enabled Reynolds’ Subaru to add four or five new positions, boosting its workforce to around 40 employees, Hayden said. About two-thirds are devoted to the service operation, the other third to sales.

The dealership sells from 40 to 75 new Subarus a month, putting it “kind of in the middle” of Subaru dealerships in the region. The top Subaru dealerships in the United States sell 600 new Subarus a month, while the biggest in New England sell 150 to 200 a month.

While they might have jumped ahead a bit with their new state-of-the-art building, the Reynoldses acknowledged that change is endemic to their business. On the near horizon, they noted, lie all-electric Subarus and the Subaru Ascent, an eight-passenger SUV featuring “driver-assisted technology.”

Whatever the advances, the cars still will need to be sold and serviced, Hayden said.

“What does everybody need? Transportation,” Kathryn said. “We’re not averse to changes.”

In 159 years, the family business has survived a few.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Domingos Vaz, right, and Jeremy Taylor, back, work on a transmission in the service bay at Reynolds Subaru in Lyme Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The company recently celebrated 25 years as a Subaru dealership and is the oldest car dealership on the east coast continuously operated by the same family, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Domingos Vaz, right, and Jeremy Taylor, back, work on a transmission in the service bay at Reynolds Subaru in Lyme Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The company recently celebrated 25 years as a Subaru dealership and is the oldest car dealership on the east coast continuously operated by the same family, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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