Earl Stewart Toyota
General Manager Stu Stewart is in charge of posting photos of dogs available for adoption on the dealership’s website. When he saw a picture of a terrier-mix named Oreo two years ago, he couldn’t resist adopting her.
Allowing them in the dealership happened over time, says General Manager Stu Stewart.
“We started noticing our customers bringing them, particularly when servicing their vehicles, and we kind of liked it,” he remembers.
Eventually, the dealership decided to be outwardly welcoming. It installed dog water stations and marked a grassy spot as a dog walk area.
“We used the phrase ‘We are dog-friendly’ in our service marketing and the word got out,” Stewart says. “We have retired customers who are widows and widowers, and their dog is their companion. We wanted them to feel comfortable bringing their companion here.”
About three years ago, the canine-friendly atmosphere attracted the attention of Loxahatchee, Florida-based Big Dog Ranch Rescue, the largest no-kill shelter in the Southeast. The nonprofit approached the dealership about a sponsorship arrangement.
The sponsorship totals more than $100,000 annually, Stewart says. Earl Stewart Toyota donated a van for dog transport and has done TV ads promoting the shelter as part of the sponsorship.
Earl Stewart Toyota’s partnership/sponsorship with Big Dog Ranch Rescue fits in nicely with the dealership’s dog-friendly culture.
Customer Paula Botkin, a Type 1 diabetic, has been bringing her service dog, Rosebud, to the dealership since buying a Toyota Sienna there in 2015. Botkin, who trains and shows dogs, says she always brings a dog or puppy to the shop.
“We’ve always been welcomed,” she says.