They’re like a family that can’t stand one another.
At least, that’s how Performance Toyota’s office manager described the relationship among the employees of the automobile dealership located near Interstate 80 and Harrison Street in western La Vista.
“Yeah, we hate each other — we give each other gags for presents every year,” said Fran McCarty with a half-cracked smile.
As she said so, parts manager George Drake reached forward and gave McCarty’s shoulders a squeeze, while service technician Joe Janowski and Performance Toyota President Jess Hull leaned back and laughed.
The “family” has been selling cars together since October 1988 and the house in which they do so just keeps growing.
Today, the Performance Toyota of La Vista dealership team is adjusting to their newly renovated home that was unveiled during a grand opening ceremony on Aug.1.
The year-long building project, which expanded the 45,000-square-foot dealership by about 15,000 square feet, Hull said, was a “sizable investment.” But he said the benefit is the dealership’s ongoing commitment to customer service.
Changes include: updated service bays, a drive-through car wash and an expanded showroom that now displays eight cars instead of three.
The modified coffee bar has complimentary cookies, doughnuts and apples. The modernized parts and accessories shop, adorned with vintage signs and T-shirts, has a mall-store aesthetic.
“It’s amazing what we’ve gotten out of this plot of land,” McCarty said.
Performance Toyota moved to its 7204 S. 124th Circle location in 2002. Before then, it was Southroads Toyota of Bellevue.
“We were fortunate to get a Toyota franchise,” Hull said, “They’re highly sought after — highly desirable.”
Awarded the franchise in 1986, the dealership had to fight a two-year legal battle with competing Toyota retailers in Omaha and Council Bluffs before opening, Hull said.
The first hired employee, Janowski, said they sold cars while moving into their Bellevue location in 1988.
“They made me a desk out of a cardboard box,” McCarty said, “I quit wearing heels, I did so much running around.”
The late Southroads Toyota Founder Tal Anderson eventually relocated his dealership to La Vista — where he anticipated Nebraskans would go, Drake said. La Vista’s population has increased by 5,645 people since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“I was hesitant about moving to La Vista in 2002,” Drake said. “Tal said it was going to boom. It did.”
Anderson died of leukemia in August 2009.
The grand opening festivities at the dealership brought Toyota USA’s vice president of sales, to La Vista. The dealership was also awarded a ceremonial Japanese samurai helmet.
The Kabuto helmet represents Performance Toyota’s continued dedication to customer service, Hull said.
Anderson and Hull were awarded a samurai sword for building their 2002 La Vista location.
“He’s why we’re all here,” Hull said of Anderson, “His vision is why we’re still here.”
To date, Performance Toyota has sold nearly 51,500 cars.