Grappone ready to open stand-alone Mazda dealership in Concord

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 09-15-2023 5:27 PM

The auto industry is facing more changes than it has seen in a century, but not everything is different: Concord is about to see an event that is very familiar to car fans – the opening of a big, new dealership.

Grappone Mazda is moving from the site in Bow that it has shared with the company’s Ford dealership for decades to a new site on Manchester Street. It will open to the public next week, with official events in October and November.

The shift is part of Mazda’s global goal to upscale and become a near-luxury brand, but for the Grappone company, it carries more immediate benefits.

“People will be able to find us, be able to park,” said Amanda Grappone Osmer, who runs a company that began when her great-grandparents bought a North State Street gas station in 1924.

The stand-alone dealership will include some unusual features, such as a second-floor community room that Osmer said would be available for free use by non-profits. Its design, including modernistic architecture and high contrast, is part of what Mazda calls Retail Evolution, a years-long program to boost the brand’s image accompanied by the rollout of more expensive and higher-end models.

One feature the dealership won’t have is public charging stations for electric cars, although it will have at least one charger in the shop for technicians, Osmer said.

Mazda, like other Japanese auto brands, has been slow to enter the electric vehicle market, which is dominated by Tesla and increasingly by Chinese auto brands. Mazda has just one electric model, a plug-in hybrid.

Osmer noted that the move makes room for Grappone’s Ford dealership to expand, including the addition of three fast-charging DC stations. Ford has several electric-only models for commercial and private ownership.

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Osmer said the entire project will cost about $18 million, part of which is paid by Mazda. Pandemic-fueled cost increases made it “much more expensive than we ever anticipated,” she said, although the company’s early booking of materials allowed it to avoid supply chain snafus. The project was actually finished early, Osmer said.

The new Grappone Mazda project will be part of the city’s biggest cluster of auto dealerships, across from Banks Chevrolet. The site has been owned by the company for decades, which most recently used it for a weekly wholesale market. Jeep and Pontiac dealerships existed there under the Grappone name in the 1980s.

The company was established by Rocco and Emmanuella Grappone, immigrants from Italy, who bought a gas station across the street from what is now Boutwell’s Bowling Center and in 1925 opened an Oldsmobile franchise. The operation moved to Bow, alongside the I-93/I-89 interchange, in the late 1960s.

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