The new Fahrney Toyota dealership under construction in Selma is scheduled to open for business soon. Photo by David Castellon
Written by David Castellon
Since 1977, the Fahrney Automotive Group has operated from the same location on Highland Avenue in Selma.
Just off the Highway 99 onramps, the locale has served the family-owned business well for most of that time, but having three car dealerships on a 4 1/3-acre lot makes for cramped conditions, limiting the number of new cars on display and restricting how many cars can be worked on in the dealerships’ two services bays.
“We’ve basically run out of room. The [parcel] we are on is much too small for the amount of vehicles we have now and want to sell in the future,” said Gerald Fahrney, president of the automotive group.
But in the coming days that will change, as plans are to relocate Fahrney’s Toyota dealership from east of the 99 to a spot on the west side.
Anybody driving along the freeway through Selma in recent days will know that day is coming soon, as a new, 20,000-square-foot dealership building stands off the freeway mostly completed, with a large “Toyota” logo installed across the top of the two-story building for thousands of commuters to see each day.
Inside, workers are laying tile, putting up drywall and doing other completion work, while outside, they’re laying the concrete curbs and preparing to pave a lot that will have spaces for 402 new and used cars.
That’s much more than the 300-plus spaces that Fahrney’s Toyota, Ford and Buick-GMC dealerships now share at the Highland Avenue locale.
“They’re going to start paving this [this] week,” Fahrney said during a recent tour of the new dealership.
Inside, he showed off the massive showroom where new Toyotas will be on display, and upstairs where a couple of cars will be parked in front of large windows so passing freeway motorists will be able to see them.
“Want to see the service area,” he asked, and then headed to an area twice the sized of the service bay at his current Toyota dealership.
The work of planning this new dealership mostly occurred over the past three years, but in truth Fahrney said he has eyed this property for a decade, back when it was a vineyard next to the Garden Vineyard Plaza and Selma Square shopping centers.
Fahrney said he bought the 63 acres eight years ago with plans to use part of it for the new car dealership and to develop the rest into a new retail center.
But he said his plans were delayed, for “a myriad of reasons,” the biggest being a turndown in the economy a few years ago.
An upswing in the economy and car buying since the Great Recession allowed him to finally go forward with building the new dealership on six acres of the parcel, and if all goes as planned, it will open on Aug. 15 with a grand opening celebration planned for a later date.
Once that happens, he said, the two buildings now occupied by Fahrney GMC-Buick, Fahrney Toyota and Swanson Fahrney Ford — the latter dealership started by his father, Donald, and his then-partner, Jack Swanson, in 1956 — will be renovated for the two remaining dealerships.
Fahrney’s used car outlet across the street on Highland will continue selling used cars for the Buick GMC and Ford dealerships, while the new Toyota dealership will have 92 parking spaces for its used cars.
The company’s administrative office and staff will move to the new building.
As for Fahrney’s plan to build a new retail development on the rest of the neighboring land, he said he hopes to break ground on that project within two years.
In the meantime, he said, he’s in discussions with possible retail tenants, including some mid-size box stores, a supermarket chain and potential operators of a 16-screen movie theater, which would be Selma’s second movie theater it comes to fruition.
“Of course, it will be a good thing for the city. We want to see businesses grow and expand and new businesses come to town,” said Char Tucker, a Selma Realtor and first vice president of the Selma District Chamber of Commerce.
“By building this new community and shopping center, that opens the door to many new businesses coming in,” she said.
Lewis Smith, senior vice president at Retail California, a Fresno brokerage firm specializing in retail and restaurant properties, agreed, noting that the two shopping centers next to Fahrney’s parcel already are big draws for shoppers, as they include a Walmart department store. The parcel is also in a highly visible, easily accessible spot just off the freeway.
“Selma is poised for major residential growth, and it can support more regional retail in the city,” he said.
In fact Garden Vineyard Plaza, with stores that include the Walmart and a small JCPenney, recently had five new, adjoining retail spaces built comprising 9,310 square feet. The spaces house, among other businesses, a Chipotle restaurant, a Starbucks and an AT&T store.
And tenants are being sought for two more parcels on the site that could be developed in the future, while work is underway to turn the former Floral Plaza convenience store into a Baz Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center.
In addition, plans are for a Boot Barn to go into a storefront that Xcelerate Fitness recently vacated.
“I think the location off Freeway 99 and kind of surrounded by Kingsburg, Reedley, Fowler, makes it an ideal location for more retail, national apparel stores and entertainment-type uses,” said Smith, noting that it’s likely a lot of people in those communities would rather drive to Selma for these goods and services rather than going farther to Fresno, Dinuba or Visalia.