By Steve Virgen, California Business Journal correspondent
AFTER WELCOMING ATTENDEES, THANKING SEVERAL PEOPLE AND CUTTING A SYMBOLIC RIBBON WITH HER FAMILY, Liz Rusnak Arizmendi was visibly excited to utter four words to christen the grand opening of Jaguar Land Rover Anaheim Hills on May 7.
“Welcome to the jungle,” she said.
No, she wasn’t about to sing the popular rock anthem. However, her maiden name, as in the renowned Rusnak Auto Group, is just as iconic when it comes to the automobile industry.
Arizmendi was talking about the decorative jungle theme chosen for the grand opening of the new state-of-the-art facility.
Just a little under three years ago the dealership “was a disaster,” said Sven Larson, General Manager of Rusnak’s newest store. It was open – lights were on, but nobody was home – literally.
There was little inventory and parts purchase terms were C.O.D. as the Jaguar Land Rover store was operating under protection of the bankruptcy court. An asset sale was imminent, and Paul Rusnak, Arizmendi’s father, stepped in with the winning bid. Soon thereafter Rusnak and his team went to work and transformed the JLRAH facility into a dealership with a showroom that rivals the largest in the country.
Designed by David Leckie, Clay Pendergrast, and the HOK Inc. architectural team, the expansive new facility features a greatly expanded showroom on over a half acre site. The christening of this beautiful new dealership was attended by key people from local government, including Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring, plus corporate executives from Jaguar Land Rover who all came to bask in the glory of the grand opening.
“Team” would be the operative word for the entire effort. Neither Rusnak nor Larson wanted to talk about individuals during the grand opening.
“It turned out beautifully,” said Victoria Rusnak, President and CEO of the Rusnak Auto Group and one of Paul Rusnak’s three daughters. “We added and we remodeled. I’m very proud of it. It’s by far the finest Jaguar Land Rover showroom in Southern California. That’s what we’re about: customer experience. A facility like this certainly provides a wonderful experience. It’s not just for the customer. It’s also for the employees and what we project. We want to create an area for them they are proud of. This is where we work. Our employees, they’re just as important as our customers.”
Said Larson: “It’s not about me. It’s about the employees who work here. It’s been a great, great experience for them. It gives them the best working environment that you can imagine in the automobile business. It just doesn’t get any better.”
Rusnak, Larson and several others were truly fascinated with the transformation of the facility, from the locked-up store to the extraordinary showroom that features some of the newest technology — and most beautiful automobiles — in the industry.
“When Rusnak bought the store, it was literally locked up,” Larson said. “It had a sign on the door that said if you want assistance you had to go to the other store next door because we had no personnel. It wasn’t being manned. It was just a very antiquated, non-functional use of space. We completely gutted it, had it completely redesigned and now it’s extremely functional. It’s one of the largest Jaguar Land Rover showrooms in the country. Certainly it’s the largest in Southern California.”
During the grand opening, of course many guests wanted to have their photo taken with one or more of the five gorgeous models, each dressed in “jungle” wear with make-up to match. The girls could have stolen the show were it not for cameras flashing as shots were taken of the exquisite cars and spacious showrooms.
“If anyone is interested, they are all for sale,” she jokingly said, referring to all the stunning cars on display.
She is one of many with the belief that the Jaguar Land Rover Anaheim Hills facility is “the best of the best” to match the product and provide the ultimate customer experience.
“Once a customer comes to a facility like this they’re going to see a wide variety of vehicles,” Victoria said. “They’re going to have excellent sales people to help them choose the right vehicle for themselves. It’s just a friendly atmosphere.”
Rusnak’s Vice President of Public Relations, Liz Rusnak Arizmendi, made the grand opening fun and classy — as she does for all of the Rusnak Auto Group’s grand opening parties and new product reveals.
“It’s first class,” says Benny Wong, a client, of the grand opening. “It really holds up the image of what a Jaguar party should be like. This one was three times as elegant as the ones in the past.
“This facility is amazing. It’s so much bigger and brighter and just inviting to come to this store. It makes us feel like we’re in something special when you’re here. I really like what they did with it. It just feels like a nice place to be.”
The Jaguar Land Rover sales team appeared just as excited as customers like Wong. The new facility can only help to attract those in Orange County and the surrounding communities, they believe.
“As our customers and prospects come into the facility, they will experience a very high standard of service,” said Khalid Omar, General Sales Manager. “We have to be able to match the facility and the product with the expectations of our customers. We can give them the service they expect and deserve in this great facility. We are very happy to be in Orange County. Now we have the facility to match the product.”
When the Rusnak Auto Group took over the dealership in the fall of 2012, the team worked for more than two and a half years to rebuild the store, gaining customer confidence one customer at a time for both service and sales, culminating in this grand opening – “with even greater things to come,” Larson said.
“Since the Rusnak Auto Group has taken over this store, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in our customer base,” Victoria Rusnak said. “We believe we have been able to offer them a new customer experience that exhibits Rusnak’s standard. I think our growth will come over time. The brands that we represent here have many exciting products and many more to come. I only see an upward trend for this Jaguar Land Rover store and for our organization.”
Steve Virgen is an Editor at the Los Angeles Times’ Costa Mesa Daily Pilot.
Jaguar Land Rover Anaheim Hills Contact:
Sven Larson, General Manager
5401 E La Palma Ave.
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807