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Is Manteca business friendly?
Man trying to open car lot doesnt think so
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Brandon Gonsalves shows his frustration over city hall red tape in his effort to open a car sales lot on the former Dodge dealership property on Yosemite Avenue east of Highway 99. - photo by GLENN KAHL

A plan to create a used car lot at the former site of the Curt Hughes Dodge dealership on Yosemite Avenue – expected to net $2 million in annual sales – has run into red tape at city hall.

Brandon Gonsalves, sales manager of Manteca Auto Plaza in 2006, said he has sufficient start-up capital and promised bank flooring that he could establish the facility and hire three sales people and a detailer.

The Modesto banker, who will oversee the facility, said the city has refused to let him use a modular office, adding he doesn’t have the funds to build a permanent office structure on the site.  

“The city says the former modular building used for Hughes used cars’ office was a one time thing and will not be allowed again,” he said, adding that his startup capital is sufficient to only be used to buy cars and open the lot.  

His frustrations run counter to the City of Manteca’s assertion that they have streamlined the permit review process and are business friendly.

Mayor Willie Weatherford – while noting there might be other issues he isn’t aware of – believes the City Council has an obligation to help businessmen through the permit process as quickly as possible even more so in the current economy.

Manteca has a 13 percent unemployment rate.

“I grew up in Newman, so I thought a town like this would open its arms to a guy like me who wants to launch a new business,” he noted.

Gonsalves said the city planning department was telling him that it would take three months to clear a use permit to put a modular office on site – if that were allowed.  He added that the site is all wired up and ready to support such an operation.

“With the shortage of jobs, I thought they would do everything possible to get my business open and running and me hiring.  I can literally be open in less than a week if they would just say go,” he said.

“We want to offer ‘bend over backwards’ customer service.  You do that and your customers will be your customers for life and they will send every single person they know to you,” he added.

He recalled a quote he had heard at a sales seminar by the CEO of Jet Blue who said, “Break the rules to make the customer happy!”

Gonsalves’ cars may also be offered for sale across Yosemite Avenue at the former new car location of the Curt Hughes Dodge dealership that is now the site of the Manteca Auto Body business willing to share the space for him to park his vehicles.

The Modesto man said he selected the East Yosemite Avenue location because of the proximity to Highway 99 and to Highway 120 with the constant drive-by traffic and easy access for car shoppers from Stockton, Modesto, Tracy, Ripon, Lathrop and Escalon.

He explained that he could not have an office there because of current DMV rules that state he must have a separate address when located adjacent to an existing business on the same property.

There are two locations in Modesto he has found as possible sites to start up his business, but he said he was hoping he would be able to make the prospect of locating on Yosemite Avenue a reality in the near future.

Gonsalves and his wife Jocelyn have three children, Skylar, 10; Alexis, a seven-day-old newborn, and Noah, 19 months old.