While searching for potential acquisitions, he received a tip that the former Lighthouse Toyota (later known as St. Augustine Toyota-Scion) had filed for bankruptcy. Beaver bid on the property. In 2013, a bankruptcy court approved the sale for $18.7 million. After navigating that complex process, the problem became overcoming the old owner’s poor business reputation.

“It was an uphill battle due to years and years of neglect by the prior owner, and the community had abandoned doing business here,” says Matt Calavan, Mike Beaver’s brother-in-law and former general manager of the Santa Fe dealership. He now runs the St. Augustine store.

“We jumped in with both feet because we know that that’s how we’re going to grow the business, by winning the hearts of the people in our community,” says Calavan. “We’re engaged in a lot of grassroots marketing. Any kind of festival or event, we were there.”

The cornerstone of the dealership’s community outreach was a $100,000 donation last September to the St. Johns County School District.

The gift supports an after-school camp for “at-risk” children, an elementary school accelerated-reader program, and professional development opportunities for teachers. In February, Beaver’s dealership awarded a ’14 Camry SE to the St Johns County Teacher of the Year.

The dealership had been averaging about 100 new and used sales per month before the ownership change. Beaver’s team, which includes eight employees who relocated from Santa Fe, has doubled that.

Calavan intends to beat the $50 million revenue the new store generated in the last eight months of 2013. “Our goal is to sell 3,000 new and used cars per year, even 4,000,” he says, noting the dealership is in Florida’s fastest-growing county. “There are lots of opportunities.”

 

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