Sergio Alvarez was selling real estate in Portland in 2008 when the economy crashed.
“The phone stopped ringing one day,” he said, and he knew he needed to find another line of work.
He’d always wanted to go into business for himself, so he moved to the Tri-Cities – not far from where he grew up in Hermiston – and began selling appliances. He started out with $200 in his pocket.
Alvarez put in the work to make his appliance business grow, taking only a single day off in his first year. Eventually, he found his best fit in the auto industry and opened Alvarez Auto Sales at 5225 W. Canal Drive in Kennewick.
Now, more than a decade on, he’s set to expand the used car business with a new $5 million location at 3809 Plaza Way, south of The Original Pancake House in the Southridge area.
He’s also changing the dealership’s name to The Auto Lot.
“I’m super excited about the new location, the new name, being able to provide more choices,” he said.
The current location on Canal Drive sits on less than an acre and can accommodate about 75 cars.
With the new space, “we’ll be able to almost double the inventory,” Alvarez said.
He also plans a 5,000-square-foot showroom and office building on the 4-acre property.
The showroom will have space inside to park and showcase vehicles.
“It’s very modern and very unique,” Alvarez said, noting that the building on the Canal Drive property doesn’t have room for vehicles inside and is about half the size of the new space.
Construction on the new location is underway. Alvarez expects to begin operating there this summer while building construction wraps up. The project is scheduled to be completely done this fall.
MH Construction is the general contractor and Baker Architecture handled the design.
The project is being financed in part with a loan from Banner Bank.
Alvarez and his team sell used vehicles of all makes and models, though the average year is about 2020. Customer service is a priority, he said, noting that, “we really take care of our customers. We go through the vehicles thoroughly and do a 20-point inspection” and make sure to explain the process.
Alvarez expects to keep operating at the Canal Drive lot for a while after the new location opens, but he may eventually close it to focus on the bigger Plaza Way location.
It’s a busy time now, but it feels good to think about how far he’s come, he said.
When he first started out in the auto business, he had five vehicles to sell. “I’ve been working so hard for so long. I went from five cars to six to seven to eight,” Alvarez said. “I’m very excited.”
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