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Pasco enthusiasts welcome Tampa Bay area's second MINI dealership

WESLEY CHAPEL — They call it "the jewel box."

On the second floor of the two-story building, the bay window will do more than add a unique element to the design of the new MINI auto dealership on State Road 56.

It will serve as a place to show off the latest car, 24/7.

"The spotlight on it will really make the car pop," said Malcolm Cheek, general manager of the dealership set to open by the end of March. "It'll be the second one in the country. The other one is in Madison, Wisconsin."

A huge platform on chains raises the car to the spot on the second floor of the seven-car showroom, which, with comfy lounges, Wi-Fi and a boutique, seems more like a hangout than a place to buy a roadster, coupe or a small four-door sedan.

"We want this place to be an experience," said Cheek.

MINI owners are a different breed than other car owners, with clubs and social events for fans of the fun little European cars that used to be known as Mini Coopers. These drivers are known to gobble up merchandise that includes not only car gear, but throw pillows, dog leashes and T-shirts.

"A lot of owners say they can't get accessories," said Cheek. "We're going to have as many as possible right here."

MINI owners have been very enthusiastic about the soon-to-open dealership, which will be the second in the Tampa Bay area. One member of the Sunshine Minis group even posted a video of Wesley Chapel MINI's ground breaking ceremony last year.

The closest dealer now is Ferman on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor. Others nearest to Pasco are in Orlando and Fort Myers.

The Wesley Chapel dealership already has been the site of club meetings and hosted owners for a breakfast on the way to a state MINI picnic in Ocala.

The dealership is being built by businessman Victor Young, a BMW dealer who in February opened a Lamborghini dealership in Sarasota; and partner Larry Morgan, who owns Toyota of Tampa Bay on Fletcher Avenue in Tampa as well as two Honda dealerships in Ocala and Gainesville.

Young said in 2010 that the pair picked Wesley Chapel after market studies showed more than 2,000 MINI owners lived in an area that stretched from central Pasco to Brandon.

Cheek said he has already talked to one owner who was considering replacing her MINI with another make of car but changed her mind when she learned she would be able to have her car serviced much closer to home.

"Service won't have to be an all-day affair," Cheek said.

The dealership features bays with tile that looks like brick pavers and black and gray walls. The ceiling shows off the duct work and lights, a reflection of MINI's open industrial design.

An alignment machine is the latest technology that can diagnose a problem in three minutes. Most machines take about 15, Cheek said.

Customers can choose from three lounges, including one with no television.

"That's the quiet room," Cheek said. "For people who really want to get their work done."

By the numbers

23 Number of new jobs that will be created when MINI of Wesley Chapel opens its doors.

37 Miles per gallon of gasoline the typical MINI gets.

130 Total cars that can fit on the Wesley Chapel lot.

30 Approximate miles to the nearest MINI dealer in Palm Harbor.

MINI of Wesley Chapel, 26645 State Road 56, will hold its ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. April 10. A grand opening celebration is planned for June 2.

Source: MINI of Wesley Chapel

Pasco enthusiasts welcome Tampa Bay area's second MINI dealership 03/02/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 2, 2012 9:04pm]
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