Tower Ford, a car dealership located at 124 South Middle Neck Road in Great Neck for 26 years, will be closing its doors at the end of the month, with the building likely to be sold in the near-future.
The decision marks a sharp change of direction for Tower Ford, which had also planned to transform a Northern Boulevard property into a one-story building for selling new and used automobiles. Now, with the planned closure of the only Ford location in North Hempstead, the nearest Ford dealership will be in Hempstead.
Martin Collins, the chief operating office of Prime Automotive Group, which managed Tower Ford since 2018 after GBP Capital purchased Tower Ford in 2017, said the high rent factor and estimated $10 million in planned investments could not be justified to investors.
The building at 124 South Middle Neck Road “like most old buildings … became very difficult to maintain,” Collins said, because of energy inefficiencies and difficulties getting large- and medium-sized trucks onto the lots. The cost of retrofitting it, he went onto say, “was going to be prohibitively expensive.”
Rent, as a percentage of gross, was estimated to be about 2 1/2 times the “industry norm” of 8 percent, Collins also said.
“That just, unfortunately, was not a business proposition that our investors would have the stomach for,” Collins said. “So after collaboration with Ford and attempts to – unsuccessfully – sell the business, we worked closely with Ford [and decided] that we would be winding the business down over the remainder of May and likely into the first few weeks of June.”
“Once we wind down the business and vacate the building, in all likelihood that building will be sold,” Collins added.
There were no properties in Great Neck adequate for sales, service, customer parking and displaying vehicles, Collins said, and finding locations for dealerships that do not encroach on other dealerships in general is “a real challenge.”
“I can promise you that GPB, ourselves and Ford all spent a lot of time looking for a solution,” Collins said. “Ultimately we ran out of options.”
Tower Ford employed nearly 50 people at the Great Neck location and Collins said his company is working with to help them find employment.
“Anytime a community supports its local business, it’s a situation where one hand washes the other,” Collins said. “We’ve enjoyed a good relationship not only with our 48 employees, but with the city and our customers as well.”
General manager Lance Cotten confirmed Tower Ford’s planned closure, but deferred further comment to the public relations department.
A service department employee, who has worked at Tower Ford for three years, said employees were informed last Thursday that the dealership planned to close up shop on May 31.
Samuel Litt, a North Hempstead resident, said the dealership had many skilled people working there with strong ties to the community. Tower Ford had also made “a lot of investment” in their facilities and understood the importance of “relationship management,” he said.
“It’s going to be impactful for the town of Great Neck,” Litt said of the loss.