Dorais Chevrolet breaks ground on new facility

by Brent Swan

After nearly two years of planning, Dave Dorais is now able to take a deep breath as construction begins on the latest remodeling of Dorais Chevy Buick GMC, 473 S. Miami St., Wabash. Dorais recently unveiled the construction plans, which are slated to be completed around the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We’ve been talking about this for two years, kind of a what would you do if we decide to move forward,” Dorais said. “This set of plans has changed countless times. We’ve gone from remodeling the current building to where we are now.”

According to Dorais, the plan is to completely rebuild the service department first, utilizing the current space, but essentially rebuilding from the walls up, then move on to building a new showroom as well as new office space.

“In the two years of planning, we were trying to save it,” Dave said of the building his family has owned since 1951. “Once you realize that isn’t practical, it became easier to make the decision to build new. It’s all about the customer experience - from the service to sales, you want to make the customers as comfortable as possible.”

The new building will feature a contemporary and modern update throughout, allowing Dorais to accommodate the newest and state of the art service equipment as well as a more aesthetically pleasing customer experience. The exterior of the building will be built to incorporate General Motors’ new Blue Arch marketing initiative.

“They (GM) are looking for consistency throughout the country,” Mike Holland, Dorais Chevrolet Sales Manager said. “They are trying to make it a more noticeable brand, something where if you are driving through Wabash and you see our building, you immediately associate it with a Chevrolet dealership.”

“General Motors sends in an architect and shows us what they are looking for,” Dorais said of the process. “We were then able to draw up what we wanted and send it back. After a lot of back and forth, we started to get closer.”

Perhaps the most noticeable change will be the building will no longer look out on S. Miami St. After completion of the project, Dorais Chevrolet will face the south. 

“One of the things I look forward to the most is the southern exposure,” Dorais said of the changes. “The new car lot will be on the south side of the building. The beauty of all of this is you will pull in under an awning, out of the weather, then you walk into a very nicely lit write up desk for service work. Our showroom will be completely updated and remodeled, so customers will see the very best from the time they arrive.”

Customers will no longer have to enter a working repair shop amid work in progress, instead they will enter to a large write up area and have a new customer lounge to pass the time in.

“We had to get an exception from General Motors to use a countertop as large as the one we will have in our write up area,” Dorais explained. “Since GM has their own list of expectations, any changes can potentially set the project back up to a month.”

After visiting several other area GM dealerships that have underwent similar construction projects, Dorais said he learned how to best tackle his own project.

“All the other dealerships agree that you wanted to avoid working out of trailers,” Dorais said. “The way we are tackling this project will allow us to work out of our current offices until the new building is done. When it is completed, we will make the move to the new building and work from there while the contractors finish the rest of the project.”

That capability allows Dorais Chevrolet to keep business as normal, for the time being at least.

“We still have to move cars around to accommodate the construction crews,” Holland said. “If someone comes in to look at a particular car, we might have to move two or three to get to it, but we want people to know we are still going to be here.”

After working closely with General Motors for the past two years, developing the plans of the construction project, Dorais said he was able to hire contractors he chose; something he insisted upon.

“Everything is as local as it can possibly be,” Dorais said of the crews slated to complete the project. “We hired Doug Kroft (Kroft Construction) to be the general contractor. I feel good about the contractors we have and love the relationship we’ve built. Doug is going to do a great job, he’s totally dedicated to the project.”

Both Dorais and Holland agree hiring local companies first has helped to put at least a few of their worries at ease.

“It’s nice to know what’s going on at all times,” Holland said. “If someone randomly showed up with a bunch of bulldozers, we’d worry. With Doug, he has came in and told us that on a particular day, this is what is going on – this is what you should expect.”

“Everything that can be done locally has been hired locally,” Doug Kroft, owner of Kroft Construction said. “There’s some specialty stuff that no one around here does, so that had to come out of town. There are a lot of companies that would go with whoever they could on a project this sized. Overall, we like to keep everything as local as possible and Dave Dorais has shown he does too.”

The wet spring has already resulted in moving the target completion date, but Kroft expects work to get back on track in the coming weeks.

“We are starting on the roof of the service department this week,” Kroft said. “People should really start noticing changes here in the next couple of weeks. With all the rain we’ve gotten, we’re hoping to have it completed in November.”

“This is an exciting time for Dorais Chevrolet Buick GMC,” Dorais said. “This is a culmination of a lot of work put in by a lot of people, including our project manager Dan Rapp. Dan has spent countless hours revising these plans and getting this project to where it is today.

“We’ve been fortunate to have good neighbors like Ken Combs (Northside Wrecker), who has given us some extra parking spaces at a time when we really need them,” Dorais continued. “We want to thank our customers, from when Dad started the business in 1949 to now. They have always been great.”

Posted on 2013 May 21