Friday, March 16, 2007

Before and After

Before and After
Ford Dealership Moves to Vallejo's Long-Awaited Auto Mall
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

The new Cornelius Ford building on Auto Mall Parkway. (J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald)

After 67 years at Solano Avenue and Georgia Street, Wilson Cornelius Ford - minus the Wilson - has moved into Vallejo's long-awaited auto mall.
Until now, only one dealership occupied the mall.

Cornelius Ford last week joined Team Chevrolet in the new digs near the junction of Columbus Parkway and Admiral Callaghan Lane. The planning started a decade ago, said Ford owner Rod Cornelius.

"It took a long time to get here, but I think our customers and our employees deserve it. I'm proud of this store, and I think it's among the finest Ford facilities in Northern California," he said.

Eventually, a third dealership franchise and possibly a fourth may join the other two, but that will likely be it, Cornelius said.

"There's not much empty land left for building in Vallejo. This is all that's left," Cornelius said, indicating the sweeping hillside that rises majestically outside his new office window.

The dealership's new location, occupying about twice the space of the old one - about 50,000 square feet - contains several innovations, and hopes to compete with car repair franchises, Cornelius said.

"It's all state-of-the-art equipment," he said. "And there's a car wash and Quick Lane, our answer to the Jiffy Lubes and Pep Boys of the world."

Quick Lane is a several-year-old Ford innovation, providing light maintenance and repair work for any make or model of car, Cornelius said.

"It operates like a separate franchise. It cuts down on wait time, the prices are competitive," Cornelius said. "We're seeing immediate success, and we haven't even advertised it, yet."

Anyone having work done at the facility gets their vehicle cleaned for free at the dealership's new state-of-the-art car wash, he said.

The new facility boasts well-equipped adult and child waiting areas, a coffee bar, a "parts boutique." Cornelius also had a waterfall installed at the street corner by the entrance.

"It's really an entry point to the auto mall and Northgate, and I wanted it to be special," he said.

With the move, the dealership has grown to 39 service stalls from 23 at the old location, and has added nearly 20 employees, he said.

Founded in 1940 as Claude Wilson Ford, the firm became Wilson Russell Ford in 1962 and Wilson Cornelius Ford in 1973.

Rod Cornelius said he started in the business as a teen washing cars and became the sole owner when Jack Wilson retired recently. Rod Cornelius' sons carry on the tradition, he said.

"They're the fourth generation, and they're doing great," he said.

So some nostalgia for the old place is to be expected, Cornelius said.

"I worked 40 years of my life there, and I've almost forgotten to get off at this exit a couple of times. But it's a 56-year-old facility that we really outgrew about 25 years ago," he said.

Sales Manager Jack Droast said he feels some of that nostalgia, too, but he'll get over it.

"This place is like a palace," Droast said. "I miss the old place, some. I spent 29 years there and you get attached. But I'm getting over it fast."

E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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