West Philadelphia: Car dealership setting a standard

This article was written for my Philadelphia Neighborhoods class at Temple University, is published on its website and was featured on Central City Toyota’s site.

By Candice Monhollan, Audra Neff-Williams and Mike Polinsky

Central City Toyota used labor union construction workers for its work. (Candice Monhollan)

Central City Toyota used labor union construction workers for its work. (Candice Monhollan)

There is never a shortage of cars on city streets, but you’d be hard pressed to find places that sell them–unless you wander into West Philadelphia.

Central City Toyota, located at 4800 Chestnut St., prides itself on being the lone car dealership in the area.

“We’re it,” said Jamie Haberle, the service manager and a 1993 Temple graduate. “People don’t build in metros anymore because of the tax base and the cost of construction. The construction that we’re doing is costing us a premium because we’re using all union labor.”

The dealership has been a mainstay in the community since 1969 and is one of the oldest in the United States.

“As the economy grew in the ‘90s, the place really blew up and it hasn’t really stopped,” Haberle said. “It’s great for commerce to be conducted in the neighborhood.”

The dealership also owns Paul Bros., the body shop located on the corner of Chestnut Street, which was started by the grandfather of Central City Toyota owner Max Paul. It has been in business for over 100 years.

With gas prices, constant congestion and the ability to use public transportation, it’s hard to imagine Central City Toyota staying afloat, but they receive plenty of business.

“People want independence,” Haberle said. “People keep their cars and we build upon that construct. It’s surprising that in a metro, you would do as well as we have.”

Central City Toyota also makes an impact besides just selling cars in West Philadelphia.

“We’ve supported the Ronald McDonald House for 40 years,” Haberle said. “We provide them vans to transport the children when they’re getting their cancer treatment at the Children’s Hospital. Our employees also volunteer and drive the vans.”

Because Central City Toyota is the only city dealership, they set the standard for others and show that it’s possible to open in an urban area and survive.

“There’s no one in the country – Toyota or otherwise – who are building what we’re building in a metro right now,” Haberle said. “No one does that.”

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Categories: Community, Transportation

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