Reputation Drives Success at Midwest Autopark in Martin City
Independent Dealership on a Roll with Savvy Car Customers.
An independent car dealership is quietly closing in on a decade of success on 135th Street. Midwest AutoPark was forced to downshift when the pandemic hit, but now it’s picking up speed again, thanks to the reputation owner Sam Arnold has worked hard to establish.
“I’ve always tried to be the opposite of what people don’t like about car dealers. I’m committed to doing the right thing at every level of my business and I think that’s the reason we’re still here and feeling good about the future despite everything else going on in the world.”
Midwest Autopark was riding along in the best of times until March when the pandemic forced them to shut down their ‘non-essential’ business. It remained closed for about six weeks and was slow to get going again once they were allowed to re-open. The dealership was used to seeing dozens of customers and selling dozens of cars every week but by the time the summer rolled around, those numbers were cut in half.
“Things are picking up again,” says Pat Forsythe, Midwest Autopark’s business manager, and Sam Arnold’s right-hand man. “The car business is like a row of dominoes. People stopped buying new cars when the pandemic hit. They held onto their cars longer and that took many used cars off the market – which really hurt us. We’ve had to look harder to find them.”
Inventory that dwindled to a few cars during the height of the lockdown is finally building back up as people begin to feel better about spending again. Quite a few people have come from the Phillips 66 station next door after they caught a glimpse of the premium vehicles for sale.
“We know what we’re doing and what people want,” says Forsythe, a 35-year veteran of car sales. “Sam’s a smart guy and puts customers first as a way of life. We’re like-minded like that. We do things better and want to keep it that way.”
A Lean Team of Experienced Specialists.
Midwest Autopark is small compared to most large dealership brands, but their focus on creating a car buying experience that’s low on hassles and high on integrity has big appeal. You won’t see obnoxious, splashy decor on their lot. No prices scribbled in neon paint across windshields or two-story dancing inflatables, cars crammed together every which way, or salespeople creeping along behind you.
You won’t find junkers here or price tags that trigger sticker shock. Sam Arnold has carved out a narrow sweet spot of high-quality car brands in good condition and lower miles at reasonable prices. The deals speak for themselves and there’s just no need for a high-pressure sales pitch.
“I like to offer cars that I would offer someone in my family,” says Arnold, with a smile that immediately puts you at ease. “I’ve got more than enough experience to know what works for customers and I stick to it. Plus, detailed car information is available on the Internet so people know what they want and what it’s worth. It’s mainly a matter of me finding those vehicles and bringing them here.”
“Sam has a gift for buying,” says Forsythe when his boss steps away. “I’ve worked with a lot of buyers and he’s really, really good. He knows how to find the cars people are after and he gets them in conditions people want. He’s constantly scouring private listings and spends all day hitting auctions looking for a hidden treasure.”
You’ll rarely find low-end models outside of trade-ins he may have ended up with. Mostly Volkswagen, BMW, and high-quality hybrid vehicles. Arnold maintains a lean operation to minimize overhead costs and that keeps prices down. There’s no repair service at Midwest Autopark and there’s not much to the payroll beyond Arnold and Forsythe.
“Our stability alone earns trust,” explains Arnold, gazing over the lot on a warm autumn day in Martin City. “It’s not uncommon for smaller dealerships to disappear after just a short time in operation and move somewhere else. But we’ve been here almost ten years and people know we’re here to stay. They can depend on us. We get a lot of repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.”
Arnold and Forsythe are an ideal team. While Arnold finds the right cars, Forsythe crafts the right deals, offering warranties, service contracts and other tangible reassurances that leave customers feeling good about transactions they used to dread. Forsythe says it’s the best situation he’s ever been a part of.
“Our customers know we’re good people and we know they’re good people, too. This isn’t the kind of place where you have to worry about your car falling apart after you drive off the lot. While we can certainly offer financing, many of our customers come to us ready to pay in full on the spot.”
Of course, any car dealership will claim good customer service, but Midwest Autopark has the reviews to back it up. Browse Google comments and you’ll see proof of the reputation that powers this little Martin City business. “We’ve had people try to sell us services for boosting our reputation online, but then they go online and see that we really don’t need any help. We know we’re not perfect, but we’re very proud of our effort.”
Sam Arnold’s gift for seeing new possibilities in used cars extends to an ability to see new possibilities in used commercial real estate. Look closely and you’ll notice Midwest Autopark sits on property originally designed for a fast-food drive-in. That might seem unusual and even a little weird at first, but they’ve thought it through. The extended roofing is perfect for protecting inventory from storm damage. It also keeps the hot sun off your back as you browse in the summer and snow off the cars during the winter. Forsythe is obsessive about keeping vehicles perfectly aligned in each angled parking spot so customers can easily walk the lot and get a good view of everything on it.
“We’ve still got some painting and a little remodeling to do to really bring the design of the whole place together, but we like how we’ve tailored the old building for a new purpose,” says Arnold. “It just really works.”
A Family Right at Home in a Good Community.
While Sam Arnold is in the driver’s seat at Midwest Autopark, his family has also come along for the ride. He credits his wife Naomi Arnold with actually jump-starting the original idea for the business and keeping all the records in order. Meanwhile, the couple’s three children have been known to help out a little where they can with things like interior painting and other upkeep. A life full of cars has brought some interesting challenges.
“I do a lot of buying, so my wife and kids are used to going with me to pick up cars,” explains Arnold. “Unfortunately, that’s meant a lot of car seat switching to accommodate our two youngest.” A lot of switching indeed, and that’s not easy. Anyone who’s ever strapped in a child’s car seat knows what a struggle it is. Just imagine doing it over and over again! “Everyone’s really good about it,” Arnold says with a grin. “I’m grateful for their patience.”
The Arnold’s family spirit fits right into a community built by family-owned businesses. Sam Arnold loves Martin City. He sells cars to business owners around the neighborhood in addition to customers in Leawood, Grandview, and other surrounding communities. Midwest Autopark is also known to spend money at local businesses, such as Firestone for tires and George’s Imports for mechanical service.
“We definitely feel like we’re part of Martin City,” says Arnold. “We work here and try to support everything it has to offer. We also hold meetings at restaurants around the neighborhood. You can’t beat the steaks at Jess & Jim’s and we’re over at Margarita’s pretty regularly. We love Martin City Coffee as well.” “RC’s Restaurant is a big one, too,” adds Forsythe. “Best biscuits and gravy anywhere. Yep, that’s the beauty of Martin City. The food is just great.”
So are the neighbors along this stretch of 135th Street. Sam and Pat are quick to show respect for Suburban Lawn & Garden across the street, the Phillips 66 next door, and Habitat ReStore right behind the dealership. They’re also grateful for the overhaul of 135th Street guided by the Martin City Community Improvement District. Sam says he appreciates everything, including the sidewalks and hanging flowers. “The upkeep along the street in front of our business is just amazing. We really try to maintain our property in a way that fits it.”
Put it all together and you detect a distinct sense of community pride at Midwest Autopark and a commitment to growing the business right along with Martin City’s revitalization movement. “You know I feel like we’re more a part of Martin City than Kansas City,” says Arnold. “It’s our hometown.” Forsythe nods in agreement. “Definitely. We enjoy the neighborhood all the way down to the cars you see around town. You might notice a vintage convertible passing by and then a Lamborghini a few minutes later. Martin City just has its own personality.”
It certainly does, and we appreciate your contribution to that personality as Martin City grows. Our neighborhood is filled with diversity and our best days are still ahead thanks to family-owned businesses like Midwest Autopark that are devoted to our future. Thanks, guys!