In what part of town do you live?
By Dadeland Mall
How long have you lived in the area?
I’ve lived in the area now three years. But, Miami – my whole life minus three years in the military.
Would you share about your service in the military?
I was in the Navy from right before September 11th until 2004. I was in avionics. I ended up guard duty and shore duty in Coronado Islands, San Diego. They would bring the parts from the planes and the helicopters over to my duty station.
What stands out from your time serving in San Diego?
A lot of companionship and trust. You have the other guys’ backs. It’s brotherhood. Before I joined the Navy, all I did was clean cars. I always wanted to have a car dealership. But, my father really wanted me to go into the military and I got amped up about it. I liked it. I wanted a change and I wanted to serve my country.
From our talks at the market, I know you ended up starting your own dealership. How long did it take you after you returned from service?
From when I was 14, until I was about 18, I worked at a car dealership, cleaning cars. When I got out of the Navy, I went back with them and I started selling cars on the internet on AutoTrader.com and Ebay.com. At that time, I was about 23 years old. In order to get a license in the State of Florida to open an automobile dealership, you had to be at least 25. As soon as that timeframe came, I took the chance. I had saved up a little bit of money and I was able to start my lifelong dream that I always wanted to do.
What about owning a car dealership was a dream?
Selling cars to people. I get lit up when I do it. I like solving that problem or situation for people. I consider myself being very easy to talk to. I like to analyze the individual situation, the uniqueness of it. I’m like a car doctor per se, knowing what kind of vehicle is going to be the best fit for a family, a single person, someone who just got divorced, someone going through a midlife crisis. Sometimes people need a little bit of guidance on what would be the right way to go. I like to make it easier for the person to go in the right direction.
Your dealership is different than other dealers. How did you find your niche?
When we first opened up, the idea was selling in the wholesale market to other dealerships. That’s my partner’s expertise in the business. We did mainly wholesale for the first five or six years, but I really missed the retail. I noticed a niche from the relationships that we had with our wholesale contacts that I could start selling new cars and have access to every brand. I pretty much do everything. My clients don’t have to go through a salesman, they don’t have to invest a lot of time and energy. It’s very transparent car sales without the typical headaches.
COVID has greatly impacted the used car prices. I’ve read that prices can be up to 40% higher. What is the situation like?
The situation is scary. I think it’s very scary because a customer that’s buying a pre-owned vehicle might pay more than the MSRP on a new one. I took in a trade on a 2019 Honda Accord with 13,000 miles. In the wholesale market, I paid 25K for the car. I sold the car at the auction, and they had to mark it up more to sell it. The original MSRP on that car was $25,600. A brand new one costs you $26,000 and it’s a 2021. When this levels off, those prices will crash. It’s not a house which is supposed to appreciate. I believe the used car market is going to take a pretty big hit.
What lessons did you bring back from the military that helped you with your car business?
I was always very dedicated, but I learned patience and understanding people. The military taught me how to control myself in very tough situations. In any situation whatsoever, you’re not supposed to blow up.
How might you teach us how to control ourselves a bit better?
It was three years drilled into me. I think everybody needs to have a bit more heart in society. We forget that we’re all human and all have certain situations that are more strenuous than others. It’s about control. How do you control it? Thinking before you speak. Not even being the bigger person, just try to try to understand that person and remember that blowing up adds gas to the fire. Be more patient with anything that life throws at you, before you make a decision that you might regret.
What do you enjoy outside of your business?
Basketball, basketball, basketball, and working out. Not that I am a bodybuilder, but I do believe in investing in your health. And, I spend time with my family a lot as well.
How did you discover LNB?
During COVID, I rediscovered you on Instagram. I remembered you from the farmer’s market. I remember the guacamole, your avocados, and talking with your dad. How is he doing?
(W) He’s great. He’s been writing a lot and publishing books this past year.
You’ve been coming by the drive through regularly this year. What’s that been like for you?
The experience is awesome. You and your wife are amazing and always have a smile on your face. That’s what people want to experience at the end of the day. You’re not just selling something, you put your heart into everything you have. I try to participate in that type of business because I do that too.
What do you pick up when you come?
I look forward to the guacamole. I even buy your avocados to just give away to people. I always do the Turmeric Concentrate, the big bottle. And, I like your starfruit and lychees. I get the Turmeric Heart cookies and a Rainbow Smoothie every once in a while.
In what other local businesses, have you found passionate owners?
Local Pie. Last Sunday, I left your stand and went and bought two cauliflower pizzas. Another business is Phitness Lab. It’s a small boutique gym and the owner has poured 13 years of his life into it. It’s a great family environment. I like to support them.
What would you do for a special occasion?
Travel. I love Vegas. I love New York. San Diego, you can’t beat it. For the tropics, Puerto Rico is amazing. I do zip lining. That’s one of my hobbies actually. I have gone zip lining in Costa Rica and in Puerto Rico a couple of times.
What do you think is Miami best kept secret?
A Pizza Brooklyn. I like their pasta carbonara. They have another location, but I’ve never been there.
What community or philanthropic groups are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
Anything that’s pro veteran. It’s something that I came out of and I put a lot of passion into. We don’t know what we’re doing when we’re signing that paper. We go through basic training. We go through the schooling, it was a big shock when September 11th happened. I have a very deep respect for everybody, but a little bit extra for people that have been in the military. I remember one of the times I was in the line at the market, your dad shared he was in the Navy.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
(JL) How long have you guys been open?
(A+W) The groves were started in 1980 by Adena’s parents Marc and Kiki. Adena started at the Pinecrest Market about 10 years ago, and I joined her a year later when I moved back to Miami from New York.
(JL) Would I be intruding to ask you, what was it that you did in New York?
(W) I was a jewelry designer. For five years I was designing for David Yurman and then I left to launch my own collection.
(JL) That is more than awesome. I’m glad you met your lovely wife and she brought you back to Miami. You can get burned out in New York.
Are there any words of advice, a challenge, or question that would you like to pose to the community?
I think society is in an interesting transition becoming more mindful of others. Challenge yourself to put yourself in somebody’s shoes, even though they’re not putting themselves in yours. We’re all human. We’re all brothers and sisters in some sort of way.
Is there a pitch about your business that you would like to share?
I don’t have any fancy jargon. I’m a car guy. I love what I do. I light up when I solve your needs and get you the right vehicle.
How can readers get in touch?