Trail Blazer Damian Lillard opens dealership with a twist

Damian Lillard

Portland Trail Blazers star player Damian Lillard has a new venture to develop during the offseason. The highly-talented point guard has opened a new Toyota dealership franchise in McMinnville, a city of around 35,000 outside of Portland.

The very visible Lillard opened the Toyota store with Brian Sanders, the founder of non-profit organization ‘A Working Family’s Christmas’ and automotive industry veteran of over 20 years. Formerly in sales, finance, and as General Manager at Dick Hannah Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and Dick Hannah Toyota, Sanders has the business acumen to make the foray into ownership with the basketball star a success.

But Lillard and Sanders aren’t looking to simply add another Toyota store with the same look and feel as all the others. Their store, prominently named Damian Lillard Toyota, is built on the premise that car buying can be different – consumer focused, stress-free, and a fun place to hang out even when you aren’t shopping for a car.

“The goal was to make a car dealership that didn’t feel like a car dealership,” Sanders said. And that goal is clear from the indoor structure. According to the Damian Lillard Toyota website, store visitors can enjoy a fun game of Pop-a-Shot or hang out at the ping pong tables inside. A covered open-air lounge is available to wait for a car or eat one of the custom-designed ‘Letter O’ donuts the duo is having local bakers whip up fresh daily.

The Elusive No-Haggle PricingDamian Lillard

Although it’s been attempted to varying degrees of success, Lillard and Sanders are boasting a no-haggle sales process. The ‘About Us’ page on the dealership site states, “We want you to receive the best possible pricing on vehicles without having to endure the typical process that everyone hates. Just because you didn’t grow up haggling with street vendors for a living doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be entitled to the same kind of deal as someone who did. Once you request our best price, you will have it with zero fuss.”

In fact, the whole experience needed a new moniker to help them break free of the norm. Damian Lillard Toyota is referring to itself as a ‘campus’, not a dealership. With the stated goal of ‘Community First’, the franchise aims to make the campus a place that improves the lives of employees and people in their community.

Related: How Mark Wahlberg and Private Equity Firms Are Shaking Up Automotive Retail

Another Feather in Lillard’s Cap

The venture into owning a retail automotive location may be new to Lillard, but it’s far from his first venture off the court. Lillard is a Special Olympics Global Ambassador and served as an honorary coach for the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports basketball game during the all-star weekend in 2013.

Lillard is also an accomplished recording artist rapper that goes by the name Dame D.O.L.L.A. who has collaborated with artists like Snoop Dogg, Derrick Milano, Lil Wayne, and Jamie Foxx. He has a signature shoe line with Adidas that’s among the top-selling kicks. And he’s done it all by the young age of 30.

Operating an auto retail “campus” will be a completely unique experience for Lillard who follows the likes of Mark Wahlberg as celebrities getting into the car biz. Doing so while trying to redefine the car buying process is sure to be a challenging but rewarding experience.

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