In a village ripe with history, one location near Tarrytown’s Historic Commons HC Zone boasts longevity spanning the past century.
What began in 1914 as a masonry-on-wood building with concrete block exterior — a carriage-type facility — became a car dealership 30 years later. Enhanced in 1954 and again in 1978 with the addition of an underground garage, Rushneck Honda flourished in its suburban location, becoming Tarrytown Honda when owner and president Dwight Dachnowicz opened it for business on November 1, 2006.
“Sunny Rushneck and Gary Rushneck purchased the dealership in the 1940s,” Dachnowicz explained. “It was a gas station that serviced used cars, and then it began selling used cars. That was unusual, selling used cars before bringing new cars into the inventory.” The Rushneck dealership was the second car company in the area, General Motors being the first. Honda awarded Rushneck the dealership in 1971. Honda practice was to scout markets to see if they were a good fit for a store, making it the second Honda dealership in the county.
“Honda decided Tarrytown was a good location for its store,” he said.
After graduating from Washington and Jefferson College in 1994, Dachnowicz was wait-listed for law school for one year. “I’d worked for Honda in college and went back to sell cars, and then was wait-listed another year, and by then, I was doing what I loved,” Dachnowicz said. At 29, he went to work for Vince, owner of The Bill Vince Auto Group, “and my major inspiration. When I got the call that there was a dealership for sale, I told him, and he said, ‘If you don’t do this (buy it), you’ll come to work here every day and regret not doing it.’”
Dachnowicz sealed the deal on the former Rushneck Honda/Pontiac/Subaru dealership at 480 South Broadway, opening as Tarrytown Honda on Nov. 1, 2006. Five months later, Vince was in Tarrytown to celebrate the official grand opening of Tarrytown Honda, owned by his protégé and former employee.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of Dwight’s achievements and successes throughout his career,” Vince said. “And I point with particular pride to what he has accomplished in the short time he has owned Tarrytown Honda.”
The youngest dealership owner in the United States, Dachnowicz brought 19 years of brand experience, including sales, managerial and corporate. Its first two months of sales earned him American Honda’s “Fastest-Growing Dealership” designation for the area.
When the economy took a hit shortly thereafter, Tarrytown Honda held its ground. “The dealer body, since 2008, has dropped by one-third, and I didn’t lay off any employees since I bought it in 2006,” Dachnowicz said, crediting his recent success to Vince’s mentoring.
He’s visited 400 of Honda’s 1,000 United States dealerships and has traveled to stores internationally.
“In Japan, they not only had a test crash site with a Honda against a solid, non-moving object, they had a crash site with two Hondas moving. For example, an Odyssey minivan versus a Fit subcompact,” he recalled. “After the crash, researchers in white coats came out to take pictures, take measurements, circle the impact areas, put down markers, conduct a full investigation.”
Tarrytown has its own concerns about the impact of Dachnowicz’s expansion plans, approved two years ago by the Planning Board, Zoning Board, and Architectural Board of Review.
A requisite traffic study found in his favor: plans to expand the dealership would not impact local streets. “However, I got the consultant, so they wanted a second study done by a consultant hired by the village, at my expense,” he said. “I’ll lose one year. It will get done, just a year later than planned.”
Due to Article 78 proceedings (a proceeding used to appeal the decision of a local agency to the New York courts) filed by the neighboring community in Pennybridge in 2012, Dachnowicz was unable to act on site plans approved by the Tarrytown Planning Board two years ago. Having had site plans approved by obtaining a building permit, he must now renew it, Village Administrator Michael Blau explained. “The Honda application requires variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals and also architectural approval from the Architectural Review Board,” Blau said.
During a special July 23, 2014 meeting, the Planning Board approved an initial 90-day extension of the site plan for Tarrytown Honda — approved exactly two years earlier on July 23, 2012 — to allow Dachnowicz to proceed through the other Board processes.
At the meeting, John Hughes, attorney for Dachnowicz, said that since the board approval two years ago, the Zoning Board process began and “ran into some issues,” as noted in meeting minutes. Dachnowicz is looking at other nearby properties so he wouldn’t need variances; he must still conform to Honda requirements however. When the 90-day period expires, the board might grant another one year and nine-month extension, to equal a two-year extension of the original 2012 site plan approval date.
Written by Janie Rosman