25 years later, Signature Still a Pillar in Benton Harbor
In 1993, Gene Moon posed for the cover of Toyota Today standing in front of Signature Toyota in Benton Harbor, Mich.
The dealership was four years old and the area was rebounding from the most recent recession. Fast forward to today, the dealership is turning 25 and has grown from 11 to 44 employees. And while the nation’s most recent recession wreaked havoc on most, Signature Toyota and its community have found strength in their people to keep moving forward.
Moon is now semi-retired. Though he’s still heavily involved with Signature Toyota through a trio of weekly calls, the store’s day-to-day operations are run by general manager Bill Crowder, one of Signature’s first employees back in 1989.
“When Gene first came here, a lot of people looked at him funny,” Crowder says. “They wondered how Toyota can be successful in an area that’s not that great, economically.”
Benton Harbor has seen its ups and downs over the years, and the more affluent St. Joseph provided a strong customer base from the start. But as the area ebbed and flowed with the economic tide, Signature Toyota just kept growing while supporting the local economic development, grass root events, charities, churches and schools.
“We do the best we can with the community and we have very good relationships,” Moon says. “When we showed up here in 1988 it was at the bottom of wherever it was going to go. Since then, the community has come back nicely.”
Signature Toyota found its footing with a commitment to customer service.
“We treat our customers the way that we would want to be treated,” Crowder says. “Everything we do here is focused on the customer. Our customers appreciate that.”
As for Moon, he’s pleased with the dealership’s success, but he’s not surprised.
“We had high hopes for the place,” he says. “And it’s turned out to be exactly what we expected.”