Dealership capitalizes on lure of the 'little old lady'

Friday, December 9th 2011

— Jason Schreiber (Union Leader)

KINGSTON — Any used car buyer knows that you're usually safe driving away with something previously owned by a little old lady.

"You want the one from a woman that drove the vehicle to and from church with low miles on it," said Bill Ranney general manager of a new used car dealership that has decided to capitalize on the car shopping concept by calling itself Little Old Lady Auto Sales.

The dealership opened up last month at Rout 5 125 and the name has a lot of people talking.

The mannequin of a little old lady they call "Granny" greets customers in the lobby of the dealership and has also become quite a conversation piece.

Owner George Kalil said they found the life-size Granny at a furniture store when they were looking for furniture for the dealership. That's painted "neon red" to resemble a barn."

"She is beautiful," Kalil said with a laugh.

The dealership has about 200 vehicles in its inventory and is located in a nearly 8,000-square-foot facility, with four service bays, formerly occupied by Levitt Auto and Truck Sales.

Kalil wanted to separate the business from the rest of the pre-owned auto dealerships by selecting a memorable name and mascot while also offering a service center on site – a feature not offered at some other user car dealerships in the area.

The name also reminds Kalil of his late mother, who was known to many as "Grandma."

"The response from the community and the customers has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive. It puts a smile on everybody's face and we all start talking about little old lady stories," Ranney said.

With mega stores popping up everywhere, Kalil said, "People are looking for Main Street again."

When setting their prices Ranney said they often ask, "What would Granny charge?" But with the prices of cars these days, most grandmothers would probably faint no matter what price is slapped on the window.

It was only fitting that the first sale was made to a 78-year-old woman from Salisbury, Mass. The last two vehicles assed to the dealership's inventory came from an elderly man and woman.

In keeping with the Granny theme, the dealership plays the 1960's hit "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" when customers call and are put on hold.

Those who stop by in person can ring the bell on Granny's tray to get service.

"We always have people ringing Granny's bell. It provides for a really relaxing atmosphere," Ranney said. "We're getting more little old ladies stopping in because they think it has that old-fashioned sound."