Passing the 15-acre campus that is home to Arlington Toyota/Scion in Palatine is no less than impressive.
On the face of it, Arlington Toyota/Scion appears simply to be a mega dealership -- with a two-story, state-of-the-art new vehicle showroom; a service, parts and collision center; a car wash and an adjacent facility for used cars.
Auto BiographyGary VicariPresident
Arlington Toyota/Scion2095 Rand Road, Palatine, IL 60074 (847) 485-1200
Sales: 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday
Service: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday
However, on the inside, it's much more, mostly because of the vision of Gary Vicari.
As the president of Arlington Automotive Group Inc., Vicari is responsible for the daily operations of multiple businesses that include more than 175 employees, a figure that is mostly unheard of in local new vehicle operations. It's also fair to say Arlington Toyota/Scion isn't your typical dealership.
While other new vehicle stores concentrate on how to sell you the latest and greatest invention on four wheels, Arlington Toyota/Scion concentrates on reaching out to the immediate community through ancillary services, all with an eye toward having customers come in and check out the vehicles for themselves.
Vicari likes to think of Arlington Toyota/Scion as the dealership with a difference; one that is simply not a place to buy vehicles, but one devoted to the entire experience of owning vehicles, and much more. To that end, you'll find events and services associated with Arlington Toyota/Scion that you won't find anywhere else.
What does that mean? Imagine finding yourself watching a full-length play in the showroom, attending a food-tasting fundraiser or a "Fast and Furious" car show. All have taken place here -- part of the modus operandi envisioned by Vicari.
Vicari attributes his way of running the company to the route he took getting to this point. Although he grew up in a family devoted to the automobile business as his father, Anthony (Tony) Vicari, had a 56-year career in the industry, Vicari took a much different path.
"Every company's identity is based on its owners and I didn't just come up through the car business," Vicari said.
At the time Vicari went to school, most car salespeople were men in their 40s, 50s and 60s. As a young man, he felt he didn't fit in. In an attempt to get a position on the corporate side with Lincoln-Mercury, executives with the manufacturer advised him to go to graduate business school and acquire more experience along business management lines.
Vicari did so, but instead of focusing on the vehicle market once again, he took his skills out West, working in southern California in sales and management with Cablevision and RCA Distribution Corp. He later moved to New York to work with Olympus Corp. and Sharp Electronics Corp., and then as general manager for Chatani U.S.A. Inc., a diversified Japanese trading company.
"I decided to put some of my academic skills to use and got familiar with the hardware side of the audiovisual industry," Vicari said.
When his father passed away in August 2000, the trustee in charge of the estate suggested that Vicari should run the family automobile business because of his corporate background, so he commuted back and forth to Illinois and began the process of learning what it took to run an automobile dealership.
"Here I was 47 years old and it was a lot different and quite an adjustment," Vicari said. "I had a general manager who kept the store running while I learned the automobile business, but Toyota said I also needed immersion learning so I went to the NADA Academy in McLean, Virginia, every other month for a year."
At the time, Arlington Toyota/Scion was on a much smaller 5.3-acres in Buffalo Grove and the recession, manufacturer recalls and other unforeseeable barriers loomed ahead. Vicari, however, slowly began implementing the components that would set his dealership apart from others. After moving to the current location in 2009, it was full speed ahead for implementing unique marketing ideas.
"What we do here is more than just sell and service cars," Vicari said. "We like to bring people in here for different events where they can take a look around and see that Toyota and Scion has a great line of cars, maybe allowing them to see something that they would not have otherwise seen."
One of Arlington Toyota/Scion's biggest partnerships involves hosting multiple summertime car shows in conjunction with JDM Chicago, a local club of owners who want to show rare and modified cars from Japanese manufacturers. Each show, which attracts up to 3,000 visitors, encompasses the entire property and often overflows into the parking lot of participating neighboring businesses, such as Harley-Davidson.
Another successful annual event involves a fundraising partnership with Clearbrook in Arlington Heights. Each year, the dealership clears out its showroom for the annual Around the World Food Tasting to raise money for the nonprofit center. This year's event is slated for Oct. 21.
"It's a great event because we have all different types of restaurants here, plus there are auctions and raffles during the evening that also help Clearbrook raise money," Vicari said.
Perhaps the most unusual event to ever occur at Arlington Toyota/Scion showroom was the presentation of the play "A Summer Storm" by the TesserAct Theatre Ensemble in 2012. The musical, written by local playwright Wayne Richards, was based on the Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1930s.
Vicari believes helping local organizations in such a manner is important to the overall success of his dealership. At the same time, it also expands usage of what is an extremely large dealership building. Vicari also works on the investment panel for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy through the Palatine Chamber of Commerce, and in various programs with Harper College and Palatine and Fremd high schools.
Similarly, the dealership also reaches out to consumer education and auto body shop programs at the local high schools and regional trade schools to make students aware that they can apply for jobs in different capacities at Arlington Toyota/Scion once they finish school.
Of course, the main aim of the dealership remains providing vehicle sales and service. To that end, Arlington Toyota/Scion is more than comprehensive, providing a car wash and detailing center, 56 service bays and a 27,000-square-foot body shop. Vicari said only about one-third of all dealerships in the country provide an on-site body repair facility. Also located on the campus in a separate building is Vicari Autohaus, which sells value-priced, pre-owned cars ranging in price from $1,955 to $10,000.
Inside the main facility, customers won't find simply the stereotypical older salesmen from previous decades. Vicari employs salespeople of all ages who speak a wide range of languages and who know how to relate to people from different cultures to make everyone feel at home when purchasing a vehicle.
Convenience is also the name of the game. Customers will find the independent HiTech, a company offering paintless dent removal, on site six days a week. A Hertz car rental agent is able to provide car rentals for individuals whose cars need body work or extensive mechanical repairs. There's even a convenience store for customers and employees.
The convenience doesn't end there. Beginning Aug. 1, a AAA insurance agency will be located within the building.
"I feel having these services really provides an upside to the community," Vicari said. "I just went through the required courses and got my insurance broker's license."
In a manner of speaking, the automobile business is kept all in the family. Vicari's wife of 26 years, Amy, also works at the dealership as special events and facilities manager. The couple has three children, Jason 24, Alex, 20, and Emily, 19.
Gary's siblings, Tracey Vicari and Scott Vicari, are part of the business and the children of all three family members have worked at Arlington Toyota/Scion in different departments when home on school break.
In his spare time, Vicari competes in triathlons, recently winning his age group for the first time at Leon's Triathlon in Hammond, Indiana.
Yes, Vicari loves cars too, and collects them. He owns a 1973 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 and a 1989 Jaguar XJS convertible.
"I've owned other cars in the past, but I have sold them," he said.
A fact that is just part of the business.