EVANSTON — After a little more than a year of building business in Evanston, Altitude Evanston, LLC, is about to expand.
The business, located just off Harrison Drive, closed on a second property last fall and is nearing the day that property can open for business. That property is the former Sonic by the Wal-Mart parking lot, and Altitude is gutting the building to remodel it practically from the ground up.
Altitude general manager Ben Critchfield said Altitude is working with the city to get the proper permits in place, but he hopes for the location to be finished by the middle of the May.
Pointing through the tile dust left in the wake of the torn-out tiles, Critchfield shared his vision of the building. He said there will be two offices and a conference room, but one of the highlights will be the waiting room, which he said will have sodas, treats, free Wi-Fi and a TV.
“Hopefully not like a typical car dealership type,” he said, “but more of a comfortable place where people can feel like they can come in.”
In addition to stripping and recreating the interior, the building will also get a new look on the outside with Chrysler gray and other required colors.
However, the remodel is not just going to include pavement and paint, tile and TVs. Critchfield gestured out toward the corner of the lot, sketching out where the new parking lot will end and landscaping will begin, complete with trees. He said the plan is to have 50 cars in the lot, and landscaping will be a big part of the changes.
“Hopefully it’ll be pleasing for people that look at it, ... not see it as the eyesore it’s been for the last eight or nine years or whatever it’s been,” Critchfield said.
The building has been closed up for several years and has attracted vandalism (including graffiti) as well as people who broke in and damaged it. With the updates, though, it will be completely transformed.
When it is completed, Critchfield said Altitude will hire a few more employees to staff the office.
The location is expected to be a boon for Altitude because it is so close to other auto dealerships, particularly Castle Rock and AutoFarm.
“We feel like all three dealers have good things to offer Evanston and Uinta County. There’s plenty of business to go around,” Critchfield said. “We’re trying to just give residents of Uinta County and the surrounding areas a good selection so they don’t feel like they have to go to the Wasatch Front to buy, that there’s a good enough selection they can stay here and keep their business local.”
He also referenced studies that have shown that auto dealerships that are clustered do better than when they are spaced apart.
“In the big city, you see the auto malls. ... It’s not about competition; it’s about convenience for the customer,” Critchfield said.
Altitude’s business model is to try to be the hometown auto dealer, with a clear focus on the community’s needs and relationships. Critchfield said that Altitude’s sales have increased every month since the business first opened, which indicates satisfaction with the business.
“We’re overcoming the stigma that was there from the previous people, and I think a lot of people like the fact that we’re trying to do business more like Evanston Motors did,” he said. “... We try to be more personable in our sales process, and I think people appreciate that. We’ve got some really good people we’ve hired — a lot of new faces.”
There is no room for complacency, though, and Altitude is always moving forward.
“We have good people who work for us that care about our community,” Critchfield said. “... [And] we try to take care of our customers, because we see these people at the grocery store, we see them at church and around town, so you want to treat them fairly and they get a more comfortable buying experience ...”
Critchfield said there is always room for improvement, but he gave high praise to the employees and customers who have made Altitude successful.