SANTA FE – Gene Valencia used to make his living driving around in a car.
Now he sells them instead.
Years ago, Valencia was the man who would show up at the door with a pizza order.
But he answered an ad for a car salesman “and I did real well,” he said.
That was 15 years ago and he’s never regretted the decision. Rather, he’s thrived, especially since Capitol City Auto Sales opened in 2004.
“I just kind of knew I could do it,” Valencia said. “I liked it. I enjoyed it.”
Located on Cerrillos Road, the dealership has been able to parlay its convenient, if size-challenged, site into a turnstile of autos.
“We think it’s the best location in Santa Fe,” Valencia said. “It’s a little tight but we’ve gotten up to 80 cars in here. We’ve even had to lease some space from our neighbors on occasion.”
But no matter how many vehicles come and go through the dealership, Valencia said the key is serving the customer well.
“It’s still a people business,” he said. “When the Internet came, people said all the cars would be bought on the Internet. But the Internet is just another tool. People still need to come in and you still need to help the people.”
Capitol City has two big advantages, Valencia said.
For one, it has an on-site full service center.
What you didn’t know:
The dealership: The location used to be a doughnut shop.
Favorite vehicle: Classics
Upcoming promotion: None specifically but Capitol City Auto, which is closed Sundays, frequently lets youth groups and sports teams use the site for fundraising car washes.
“That helps us a lot,” he said. “A lot of customers come back here and get all their service work done. So it’s a big advantage for us.”
And the second is a lenient credit program that provides financing for nearly every customer “as long as they have an income,” Valencia said.
That helped the dealership survive the lean years when credit was so scarce.
As a matter of fact, he said, that was so attractive that it has coaxed a number of buyers from the south.
“About 50 percent of business is from Albuquerque,” Valencia said. “And we get a lot of repeat and referral business. We’re known for our nice cars so people will come from all over to see us.”