By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN – Not even pouring rain and very muddy ground conditions could discourage federal, state and local officials from attending the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new 49,000 square-foot Tarbox Toyota dealership on Quaker Lane Monday morning.
The event, which was attended by Governor Lincoln Chafee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. James Langevin and North Kingstown Town Council President Liz Dolan and other elected officials, officially marked the first milestone in the completion of the project, which began construction in May.
Currently, Tarbox’s Post Road location is home to a 13,000 square-foot dealership. The new location will employee over 100 people.
“Well, ‘here we grow again’ is our slogan for this project,” Tarbox owner Ed Tarbox said. “I think construction confirms that this car salesman from North Kingstown is bullish on the town, bullish on the state and bullish on this country of ours.”
Tarbox stated the reason for this expansion during this economic climate was because business owners across the state are hoping to expand and create jobs for the residents. The opportunity presented itself and he invested in it.
“Our dealership and the Toyota brand have faced a recession, recalls and the wrath of Mother Nature in the form of a devastating tsunami and flood,” he added. “These recent events have adversely affected many people, but we’ve persevered.”
The estimated construction completion date is February 2012 and Tarbox plans to open its new location in the spring of that year.
More than 20 local businesses and over 550 workers will have worked directly and indirectly on this project once complete, including Aris Design of Providence, Allscapes Landscaping Construction of Exeter and Overhead Door Company of Rhode Island.
“This is a dynamic endeavor that Ed was taken on and it’s been a pleasure working with him,” said Kevin Dorsey of Narragansett Improvement Company. “Ed has lit the spark for future development and he’s thought outside the box, as you can see by his commercials.”
Gov. Chafee commented that in the nation’s difficult economic times, Tarbox’s ability to grow is “impressive”.
“A large-scale expansion such as this has ripple effects throughout the state’s economy and will create jobs for Rhode Islanders at a time when we need them,” he said. “I am grateful to the Tarbox family, a Rhode Island institution since their first Chrysler dealership opened in North Kingstown in 1935, for their continued commitment to our state.”
Langevin reiterated the fact that it’s the small businesses that create jobs and expanding businesses like Tarbox is what the state needs to get the economy back on track.
“I thank you for not giving up,” added Dolan. “You had a commitment to this town. You could have gone elsewhere but you were determined to stay in North Kingstown. And for that, we’re grateful.”
The new three-level retail and service facility will be adorned with the custom “Toyota Image USA II” design for high visibility and customer convenience, which will be visible from Routes 4 and 2. The three levels of the building are connected with an interior atrium space featuring a glass elevator.
Since opening the first Tarbox dealership in 1996, Ed Tarbox has sold more than 50,000 cars in Rhode Island. His two dealerships, including Tarbox Hyundai in Warwick, invest more than $1 million a month into the state’s economy in expenses alone and employ nearly 125 people.
Ed’s grandfather, Nick Tarbox, operated a roadside stand with a gas pump during the Great Depression. “Nick’s Place” was where residents went to get their “bottle” during prohibition. Nick later became the first car dealer in the family. He added a Chrysler franchise to his gas station and repair garage in the late 1930’s but later lost it as Chrysler converted to making tanks instead of autos during the war effort.
Toyota is the largest car dealership in the world and, in 2010, sold over two million cars. Toyota employs 30,000 employees, has 1,506 dealerships nationwide and has 10 plants across the country manufacturing parts.