Chandeliers sparkled overhead as guests and Lexus officials gathered Tuesday to mark the official grand opening of the Hilton Head Lexus dealership on U.S. 278 near the Walmart in Hardeeville.
The newly redesigned 2014 Lexus IS 250 served as the backdrop as dealership owner Winston Pittman Sr., and his wife Alma cut the symbolic red ribbon. Pittman, who also owns Chatham Parkway Lexus in Savannah in addition to dealerships in Kentucky and Ohio, said he couldn't have gotten to where he was today without a strong support system.
"If you find a turtle on a stump, he didn't get there by himself. He had a lot of help," Pittman said. "I look around and see lots of people who had something to do with where we are today."
Pittman emphasized the commitment of the 275 employees at both dealerships and the loyalty of customers as a reason for the dealerships' success. Everyone from sales to service has made an impact, he said.
"Without our employees, we wouldn't be where we are today. Customers have entrusted us to be the one to service their cars and we're thankful for that," Pittman said. "We can sell you a car one time, but (the service department and technicians) are the ones who have to continue to sell it."
Helping celebrate the grand opening were Lexus family members from across the country.
Jeff Bracken, group vice president and general manager of Lexus division, thanked Pittman for the work he's done for the Lexus name and for the community. Bracken honored Pittman and the dealership with a gift of a Katana sword.
"This Japanese sword has come to symbolize to us the strength and integrity of our dealer and the organization," Bracken said.
Tim Bliss, general manager for Lexus Southern area, said it was thanks to Pittman that the brand is so well represented in the area.
"In the Lexus covenant there is a phrase about treating guests as if they were guests in our own home," Bliss said. "Winston has provided all of us one of the finest homes in all of South Carolina and Georgia."
ABOUT THE DEALERSHIPThe 20,000-square-foot dealership officially opened for business Jan. 5 and was built to serve customers throughout the Lowcountry who previously had to travel to Savannah or Charleston for sales and Service. Overseeing the new dealership is Jim Mollica, chief operating officer for Toyota, Lexus and Subaru. He said the new building is similar to its sister store in Savannah -- just a little smaller.
Although smaller in size, builders spared no detail in creating an upscale auto experience in both the sales and service areas. Custom-painted walls and ceilings and granite counter tops are found throughout the dealership and a customer lounge with espresso bar and flat-screen TVs keeps customers relaxed while they have their vehicle serviced.
Guests seeking more relaxation can find it in the dealership's mini spa that offers massage chairs and complimentary manicures.
"Lexus is about luxury and the dealership reflects that," Mollica said.
'BLESSED'Pittman became emotional when he thanked everyone who supported him and continues to support the Lexus name.
"We've been very blessed," he said"
His wife, Alma, took time to thank family and friends who traveled far and near, and also honored the band that provided the evening's entertainment, despite the loss of bandmate and famed Savannah jazz musician Ben Tucker. Tucker was killed Tuesday when the golf cart he was driving was struck by a car on Hutchinson Island in Savannah.
"Ben sent his bandmates on to play because, they said, that's what he would have wanted," Alma said.
LEXUS IS 250 DEBUTTuesday's grand opening also served as the debut for the new 2014 Lexus IS 250. The redesigned sedan has a sporty new look with a bold grille and new interior. With a base price hovering around $36,000, the new Lexus puts it in competition with the Cadillac ATS, Audi A4 and the BMW 3 series. Bracken said sales will begin in July.