Ole Ben Franklin Motors, the largest independent used car lot in Tennessee, is expanding into Oak Ridge, and the company’s new location on South Illinois Avenue will open Thursday, the owner said Tuesday.
It will be the sixth business to open in a little more than one year in a one-third mile stretch of the busy roadway at the southern entrance to central Oak Ridge.
“We want to be part of (the growth),” said Mike Mencer, owner of the Knoxville-based company.
Mencer said the Ole Ben Franklin Motors lot at the former Dean Stallings Ford could have more than 100 cars when it opens at 9 a.m. Thursday. He said the company has a great selection of used cars, can offer financing through its own bank, and has been in business for 30 years.
“We’re not new at it,” Mencer said. “We’re very good at it.”
The selection at Ole Ben Franklin Motors includes newer-model used cars, and prices can range from $50 to $50,000.
It’s the company’s fourth car lot and first in Oak Ridge. The other three lots are on Kingston Pike in Knoxville, in Clinton, and on Chapman Highway.
“We’re going to bring it to Oak Ridge and make it even larger,” Mencer said.
Ole Ben Franklin Motors is leasing the four-acre site with an option to buy. The deal has been in the works for about five months.
The new nearby businesses, a relatively new stoplight in front of the dealership, and the volume of traffic on South Illinois Avenue all seemed to factor into Mencer’s decision to open a lot at the former Dean Stallings Ford site.
“I think it’s a great location, and I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said.
During a recent end-of-year interview, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson credited the tax increment financing, or TIF, that triggered the initial development along that stretch of South Illinois Avenue. Among other things, the $625,000 TIF is helping to pay for a new stoplight and road at Woodland Town Center, where Panera Bread and Aubrey’s restaurant first opened in October 2012, followed by a Aldi grocery that opened in November 2013. Other new nearby businesses include Bojangles’ restaurant and Weigel’s gas station and store.
The Woodland Town Center TIF served as a model for a larger $13 million agreement that the Oak Ridge City Council and Anderson County Commission have already approved for the redevelopment of the Oak Ridge Mall.
“We’re now ready to try that on a larger scale with the mall,” Watson said. The mall TIF still needs state approval. Watson said state officials have been briefed on the proposed agreement but haven’t signed off on it yet. That could happen in January, the city manager said.
Mencer said Ole Ben Franklin Motors could have a grand opening later, possibly within about a month. The Oak Ridge car lot will start with about 20 employees. Mencer said the company’s lots have up to about 60 workers, and the Kingston Pike store sells about 150 vehicles per month.
“It’ll definitely bring employment into Oak Ridge,” Mencer said of the new lot on South Illinois Avenue.
The Oak Ridge location will have a transmission shop right away and grow into the former mechanics’ shop, Mencer said.
Ole Ben Franklin Motors will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the lot will be closed on Sundays.