SEMINOLE — Scarritt Automotive, one of the last of the original Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the nation, is planning a transformation.
If all goes well, the dealership will no longer sell new Lincolns, or any other new car. Owner Frank Scarritt, 82, would retire and turn the business over to his son, Morgan, who would sell pre-owned cars, and provide "quick service" repairs and other services.
"We're negotiating the sale of the (Lincoln) franchise back to Ford," Frank Scarritt said Tuesday. It's unclear, he said, when a deal might be struck and he declined to provide further details.
Ford ended production of the Mercury line last year.
Scarritt's devotion to the business is well-known.
"His business has been his baby," said Gretchen Cain Wells, chief of operations for the Seminole Chamber of Commerce. "He's an icon in the area. … I truly valued his expertise over the years."
Seminole council member Leslie Waters agreed that Scarritt's retirement would be a big loss to the community.
"Mr. Frank Scarritt has been a distinguished businessman in our community for decades," Waters said. "Although I do regret that the Lincoln new car dealership may be making a transition to pre-owned, I am certainly glad they will still be based on Park Boulevard near Seminole."
Scarritt has a long history in Pinellas County.
Scarritt's father opened one of the first Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in the nation at 216 Second Ave. S in downtown St. Petersburg in 1946. Today it's the only remaining original Lincoln dealer in Florida and one of only three in the United States.
In 1961, Scarritt moved to 555 34th St. S where it remained until 2000 when it moved to its current location at 8350 Park Blvd. in unincorporated Pinellas on the edge of Seminole.
The move to Park was prompted by Ford's Lincoln Premier program. Scarritt was the first in the nation with the new premier design, which was geared to project the more upscale image of the cars.
The multimillion-dollar facility and nearly 9-acre tract on Park had almost twice the space of the 34th Street site and was necessary for Scarritt to be certified as part of the Lincoln Premier Experience, which sought to make the car-buying experience better for customers.
In the new showroom, for example, the areas where sales people have desks and seats for customers were more open to avoid the appearance of high-pressure, captive sales pits. Space was included for a children's playroom.
As Scarritt works on turning his business over, he's not inclined to look backward or forward. He said it's too early to talk about memories of his 56 years in the family business where he has worked since he got out of the Navy in 1956. And, he said, he's not ready to speculate on what he would do once he retires, saying only "not work every day as hard as I have been."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.