Article and Photos by Michael J. Billoni
On a Monday morning 12 years ago last month, Chris Taylor and Travis Smith sat in a very small office in a strip plaza at 1703 Grand Island Blvd., and began their own automobile-selling business with two preowned cars parked next to a motel down the street.
They were young, married, and had just left good-paying jobs working for the late Billy Fuccillo at his recently opened dealerships on Grand Island. They both loved the car business and believed they could do better on their own.
This Monday, Smith will stand in the exact spot where their new venture began, only this time, he will be watching his team of salespeople move into Certified AutoBrokers’ sparkling new, bright, two-story showroom that is part of a $4 million, 15,000-square-foot renovation and addition to their business.
The showroom will feature 12 workstations in a space with floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, a breakfast bar, welcome kiosk, service tower for managers, and a second-floor atrium for an extensive call center and offices.
Adjacent to the showroom is the addition Taylor and Smith are most proud of: a service center that increases work bays from four to 12, which allows them to provide all elements of automobile service for anyone.
Travis Smith stands where he and Chris Taylor began their business 22 years ago.
Once they move into the new building next week for a soft opening, contractors will renovate the former showroom into an elaborate and relaxing service waiting area. They will also pave the entire property, giving them space to house nearly 200 preowned vehicles on premises, with more located elsewhere. An elaborate grand opening is planned for May.
“Providing this additional service to our current customers, and now to others, is extremely important to us, because our entire team is driven 100% by customer service,” Smith explained during a recent tour. “From beginning to end, our customer service never stops. Our team all believes they have a customer for life, and our customer ratings on Google reflect that. We have consistent 4.9 ratings and, for an auto dealer, that is rare. We are immensely proud of those ratings.”
When New York state shut down businesses on March 20, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that was the 10th anniversary date for Taylor and Smith’s Certified AutoBrokers. Suddenly, faced with a pandemic and a future multimillion-dollar expansion on the planning board, they questioned for a minute what was going on around them.
Taylor, a U.S. Air Force veteran and the fundraising chair for the DeGlopper Memorial Expansion Committee, and Smith did what most businesses were forced to do – work from home. They did not miss a beat.
“From the time the pandemic began and through our entire construction time, which began in November of 2020, we have consistently broken our car sales records,” Taylor said proudly.
Smith added: “What we are most proud of about this expansion is the ability to create jobs and an outstanding work environment experience for our staff. We believe in a balance of work and family time. We currently have 28 employees, which will grow into the 30s in the next month, with plans to reach 50 or more by the end of the year.”
Taylor is most proud Certified AutoBrokers is the largest, independent used car dealership within a reasonable distance in New York state and Pennsylvania.
Not bad for two guys who began this business 22 years ago selling two cars in a week for $1,900 and $2,200.
Chris Satarian, service manager, stands in the new addition to the Service Center at Certified AutoBrokers.