2015-11-05 / News

Motorland moves out of North Dam, expands in Arundel

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL/BIDDEFORD — Since expanding from a Biddeford warehouse last year to a more visible spot on Route 1 in Arundel, Motorland has become something of a local landmark.

Now, the classic car dealer is gearing up for an expansion that will more than double the size of its showcase area.

When Tim Stentiford, 55, of Kennebunk, quit the world of corporate communications in 2011 and fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a full-time car guy, Motorland, was a oneman operation.

“Pretty much, it was just me,” he said, when the Post profiled his business in January. “My family jokes this was really a thinly veiled attempt to hide my hoarding addiction.”

But the father of two teenage boys knew exactly what he was doing. Now, flash forward four years, and his showroom in Biddeford’s North Dam Mill is no more — he sold the spot to a Boston investor in September — and the Arundel location has moved into the fast lane.

Stentiford bought what had been the site of an RV dealership at 2564 Portland Road in December 2014 to better show off everything from Volkswagen Bugs and woody station wagons, to classic Corvettes and sleek Jaguars. Since then, until the September sale, Motorland operated in two locations, with the Arundel site complimenting the Biddeford warehouse by adding not only a more visible location, but a repair and restoration department, as well as a concierge service. Motorland stores vehicles over the winter, maintains them, then delivers the classics to their owner’s door upon arrival of the cruising season.

But as this last summer progressed, Stentiford could see that all of his eggs belonged in the Arundel basket.

“The location on Route 1 in Arundel has been terrific for our business,” he said on Monday. “The volume of activity has been overwhelming. If anything we’ve struggled to keep up with demand there. So, from our perspective, that old adage — ‘location, location, location’ — really does mean everything, because as much as we loved being in the old mill district in Biddeford, it seems like our business was made for that Route 1 location.”

As an anecdote describing just how much the Route 1 site had taken off, which also illustrates how it has quickly become a cultural icon in the area, Stentiford tells about a recent tour bus visit.

“We had 100 people from Texas on a leaf-peeping tour through Maine and, when they passed Motorland, they were so excited about seeing so many old cars sitting out here, they literally had the bus driver turn around and stop, and they all got out and spent some time walking around instead of just cruising down Route 1 and bypassing Arundel completely,” Stentiford recalled. “We see things like that all the time and we’re just really pleased to see and hear every day about the impact we have had on the area.”

But Motorland is not just the story of lookie-loos. A couple visiting Maine from Georgia, also up for leaf-peeping, actual- ly bought a car and had it shipped down south.

“That’s not unusual,” Stentiford says. “Something like 92 percent of our sales are outside the state of Maine. In fact, we’ve sold more classic cars to the state of California than the state of Maine.”

But there are local benefits. Since adding the Arundel site, Motorland has ramped up to 10 employees.

Motorland also has built a partnership with the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, the technical school that serves the Biddeford and Kennebunk area, under which it offers four intern slots to students each year.

Motorland also employs, as interns, at-risk students from Biddeford High School’s alternative eduction program.

“We’re very proud to be creating and keeping jobs in Maine,” Stentiford said.

And so, Stentiford wanted to expand the Arundel site. But the problem was, he only owned the buildings. The 9-acre lot still belonged to Neal Griffeth of Caribou.

Unfortunately, Stentiford said, he could not afford to buy the entire lot.

“To the owner’s credit, and the realtor’s — Ed Herczeg of Keller Williams in Portland — they put their heads together, kind of got creative, and they came back with an idea to make it work,” Stentiford said.

That idea was to subdivide the lot in two.

Griffeth has agreed to split the lot in half and sell the part Motorland sits on to Stentiford. That will leave Stentiford with enough money left over from the Biddeford sale, combined with a small business loan from Camden National Bank, to build a 13,000-square-foot warehouse — measuring 60-by-220 feet — behind Motorland’s current Route 1 showroom.

“We wanted to remain in Biddeford, because that warehouse space has served us well,” Stentiford said. “But when we were offered the chance to buy part of the Arundel property, combined with having a construction loan included in the package, so we’d have exactly the same amount of square footage, just all of it on site at our headquarters, it was a no-brainer.

“Luckily, we found someone interested in our Biddeford property, because it’s right were things are starting to happen, as Tim Harrington’s Lincoln Mill project starts to tip the scale in a positive direction,” Stentiford said. “But for us, for our business, it was a good trade because the Arundel site has made all the difference for Motortland.”

According to Town Planner Tad Redway, the only slight hitch in the development is that Arundel requires 200 feet of road frontage for all lots along Route 1.

That means Stentiford will lose about 25 feet of his current parking lot, where his classic cars are currently on display. To make up for the lost space, the display area will expand deeper into the lot, when the construction phase of the expansion begins next spring, Stentiford said on Monday. According to Redway, Stentiford also will have to build a fence between the two lots and reconfigure lighting in the parking lot, but those are small prices to pay, Stentiford says.

“That’s been a small wrinkle and I emphasize small,” Stentiford said. “They have been great. This is really the story of how a lot of different resources have come together to make a small business work.”

A public hearing on the proposed lot split will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5, in the library at Mildred L. Day School.

“We’ll set it up so the board can go ahead and vote at that meeting, right after the hearing,” Redway said.

Because the deal was not scheduled to close until Nov. 13, Stentiford declined to provide financial details of the purchase of the Arundel lot or how much he is borrowing to build the warehouse, other than to deem it, “a significant investment.”

He also declined to say what he received for the Biddeford space. Arundel Planning Board Chairman Richard Ganong declined to describe his group’s review of the expansion project.

“I have a policy of not taking to the press,” he said on Monday.

Stentiford said he’s very pleased with Arundel’s assistance.

“I can honestly say the town of Arundel, from the officials in town hall, to the planning board, to all the folks we’ve come in touch with, including our business neighbors, they’ve truly been welcoming and supportive and looking for ways to help us,” Stentiford said. “This new growth phase is something we are very excited about, but also a little scared. But we thought, go big or go home.”

The only remaining question is what will become of the other half of the Motorland lot?

Reportedly, it will go on the market as soon as the sale closes on Stentiford’s half.

With Arundel in the market for a new town hall, might it take up residency next to Motorland? Already, some selectmen have stumped for a Route 1 site over long-running negotiations for a plot on Limerick Road.

That support is at least partly attributable to hopes of driving additional commercial development along Route 1.

The (Griffeth) lot has not come under any discussions,” Town Manager Keith Trefethen said on Monday. “But the town will continue to keep all options open until a decision on a site and price is reached.”

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