Bill Fields arrives at work before sunrise most days, a work ethic that was instilled in him by his late stepfather, Irwin Garsten.
Mr. Garsten, who founded the car dealership now known as Apple Honda, died in February at 86. Up until the night before he died, Mr. Garsten exchanged emails from Florida with the staff at Apple Honda in anticipation of the opening of a new showroom that had been in the works since 2007.
The dealership held a grand opening for that new showroom in late July, a moment Mr. Fields said his stepfather would have loved to witness. When he walks into the new building to begin each day, Mr. Fields — the general manager — said he thinks of how proud Mr. Garsten would be.
“I feel like we’re moving toward a bigger and better future,” Mr. Fields said. “This building is a testament to our commitment to the town of Riverhead and to the people of Riverhead to support the Honda brand.”
Mr. Garsten began his business in 1959, opening his first Riverhead showroom on West Main Street, where Buoy One restaurant now sits. Mr. Fields refers to him as an entrepreneur who knew Route 58’s potential when he moved the business there in 1972.
His stepfather, he said, saw the location as a “business mecca.”
“Route 58 was definitely a different atmosphere,” Mr. Garsten said at the time. “There were literally tumbleweeds blowing down the concrete road that was here.”But sure enough, Mr. Garsten was correct.
Apple Honda’s new two-story, 5,500-square-foot showroom is located next door to the old building, which remains open and in use.
The high-tech energy-efficient building has a modern look inside and out. It was constructed by Diamond Builders and work lasted for about nine months.
Herbert Israel of Diamond Builders said this project differed from others in the area.
“It’s a very advanced building for Riverhead,” he said. “It has a lot of technology in it.”
Mr. Israel said Mr. Garsten had many thoughts on the outcome of the new building and he’s proud to honor his vision.
“It’s his memory,” he said.
The building features tall windows on three sides and doors that open with the push of a button. Customers are greeted at the entrance by a reception desk and cars on display.
Customer consultation desks are spread out across the sales floor and a multi-screen computer station allows customers to create their own cars, tailored to the look and features they want.
The second-floor houses a conference room the company will use to train new employees, a kitchen/eating area for staff and more offices, including one where Mr. Fields sits — though he said he still splits his time between the old and new buildings.
Now that the new facility is up and running, Mr. Fields said, the next step is to begin renovations on the original building.
The old showroom houses the service department, as well as other offices. The company is still awaiting required approvals from Riverhead Town, but the goal is to begin work in October to reface the exterior to match that of the new building. They also plan to expand the service space, adding four new lifts to increase the capacity of cars that can be worked on.
A parts boutique, new warehouse space and more corporate offices are also planned.
For now, however, the older showroom remains as it was and still has some cars inside for customers to look at. Mr. Fields usually begins his day in the office that was formerly his stepfather’s, where he has a clear view of the new building from the window.
Hanging on the walls of the old showroom are awards Mr. Garsten had received over the years, as well as old photographs, newspaper articles and an enlargement of his 2006 Quality Dealer Award from Time magazine.
Some of this memorabilia will be moved into the new showroom.
Mr. Fields has fond memories of the man who built the business. As a teenager and college student, he worked in multiple departments at the dealership. After college, he went on to pursue other careers, but remembers the summer of 1989, when his stepfather called him to come and work for the dealership again.
“He promised me that he would teach me the business and he certainly spent a lot of time with me and I learned a lot from him,” he said. “This was his dream.”
It’s a bittersweet feeling, Mr. Fields said, to sit in the second-floor office of the new building.
“He would be ecstatic with the finished product,” Mr. Fields said. “He will be sorely missed in this community for all that he brought to the town of Riverhead.”