As featured in the Summer 2019 issue of The Executive, an online magazine featuring members of Gwinnett Chamber’s Chairman’s Club.
A car dealership that’s not a car dealership is how Johanna Ellis Reisinger, president of Atlanta Classic Cars, describes her business. Atlanta Classic Cars is a new- and pre-owned Mercedes-Benz dealership in Duluth, but it is so much more than that, she says. For Reisinger, it’s a family, both literally and figuratively.
Reisinger’s grandfather, John Ellis, opened the dealership in 1975 in Decatur, naming it Atlanta Classic Cars because of the legendary branding and style of Mercedes- Benz. His daughter (and Reisinger’s mother) Cathy Ellis took over the business in 1988 and moved it to Gwinnett County in 2005.
The third generation to run the family-owned business, Reisinger said her 170 employees are also treated like family and are the reason her customers keep coming back.
Atlanta Classic Cars recently completed a major expansion that offers more opportunities for its employees and better service for its customers. Reisinger spoke with us about what makes her dealership different than others, what changes they’ve made to increase their excellent customer service and what is in store for the future of Atlanta Classic Cars.
Q: What makes Atlanta Classic Cars unique?
A: What I think makes us different is our people. Our staff is here to build relationships. Yes, we build relationships so we can sell cars, but first and foremost, we are here to support and serve the Atlanta community. That community philosophy is true internally as well; 50 percent of our staff has been here 10 years or more. Customers can count on returning to Atlanta Classic Cars and seeing the same faces and hearing the same names year after year. We recently surveyed our customers and the they told us that they can feel our staff’s engagement and satisfaction. We have customers come by just to visit because they enjoy the company of our staff.
Q: You recently expanded your showroom. What is included in the expansion?
A: We have an all new detached detail shop and specialty service center dedicated to our Sprinter customers. In addition to our detailing service, we wash 30,000 vehicles every year. I don’t have anyone on our detail team that has been with me for less than 15 years. They are professionals and we decided it was time to give them their own space. By moving the detailing out of our facility, we also made room to add six more service bays so we can help customers even more efficiently with service needs.
Also, a part of the expansion is the new AMG Performance Center, which features an AMG power wall with a touch-screen where customers can learn more about our products. Since we are now a preferred AMG Performance Center, we have access to even more AMG products than other Mercedes-Benz dealers.
The expansion also included upgrades to the customer area of the service department, including a kids playroom and a better food and beverage area, as well as four contiguous interior delivery bays and an executive office suite. There is an excitement that comes with watching someone receive delivery of their new Mercedes- Benz and now my team and I get to experience that with our customers every day from our new office.
Q: Why did you decide to expand now?
A: We are never resting on our laurels. We are always innovating in our facility for our staff and our customers. Mercedes-Benz invented the automobile and continues to creatively push the envelope in the industry. The AMG line is a prime example of the constant innovation of our brand. This expansion proactively meets future Mercedes- Benz facility requirements and creates a comfortable, enjoyable space for people to come experience all the brand has to offer, make a purchase and experience our excellent service.
As a third-generation automotive dealer, how do you maintain the trusted legacy built by your family while keeping the dealership up- to-date with the advancements in products and technology?
The most important part of our legacy is taking care of our people. That’s something my mama taught me and something my grandfather taught her. If we care for our people and we provide them with every tool they need, then the technology and advancements all come naturally.
Another lesson that has served me well is not being afraid to invest in our people and our business, like we’ve done with this expansion. Similar to my mom looking at the growth of Gwinnett County and moving the business here in 2005. We are always striving to provide opportunities for our family and our staff.
Q: As a business owner and operator, what do you find beneficial about running a business Gwinnett County?
A: It’s really exciting to be a part of the fast-paced growth and pride Gwinnettians have. We enjoy a great relationship with Gwinnett Technical College and their Mercedes-Benz training program. It’s been inspiring to watch Gwinnett Tech and their students accomplish their goals.
We also appreciate the diversity of Gwinnett County. As a woman- owned, millennial-owned business, I am not the norm in my industry. My mom was in the minority as a woman-owner and proprietor in the ’80s and ’90s. Our staff is incredibly diverse — over 25 languages are spoken at our facility. You expect that in a bigger city like Atlanta, but once you get out here in the suburbs, you don’t necessarily expect it. I feel like diversity is really celebrated in Gwinnett.
Q: What benefits have you experienced from being a part of the Gwinnett Chamber Chairman’s Club?
A: We definitely feel the Chairman’s Club and Chamber’s impact and support. My mother was very involved when she moved the company to Gwinnett and, though I don’t live in the county, I make attending as many Chamber events as possible a priority.
Being a member of the Chairman’s Club is an investment. We are a bigger small business, but still a family-owned small business, so we are always looking at every expense. But we do think that being a part of the Chamber is worth it. We love to host events and we can’t wait until we can show off our new expansion.
Q: What are you looking forward to in the dealership’s future?
A: In the near future, our focus will be expanding our service availability. We will also stay heavily engaged in the Mercedes-Benz training program at Gwinnett Tech. We’ve hired 12 students in the last 18 months for our apprentice program and are looking forward to working with these men and women, teaching them about our products and serving our customers’ needs as our products continue to grow.
Our dealership’s future is in Gwinnett County. As we welcome more employees and they become a part of our family, we hope to continue to provide a happy and healthy work environment for people from both in and out of Gwinnett County.