Ojai's newest Ford dealer desires Ojai's sense
By Jesse Phelps
Ojai Ford has a new sign and
a new face.
Meet Mark Johnston, the new owner and in-store manager of the
lot. On Aug. 7, a deal was finalized that officially made Johnston
and his brother, Ernie, the new co-owners of the former Bronk-Vreeland
This isn't the first time the two brothers have partnered. The
two have been in cahoots for 23 years and also co-own a high-end
resale lot in Los Angeles called Grand Prix Motors, featuring
"high-dollar, high-end" specialty cars like Ferraris
Now Ernie, 43, will run Grand Prix while Mark, 42, will live
locally and provide the new face of Ojai Ford.
Mark Johnston has a home in Ventura and said he's looking to
buy a place in the valley. He said the motivation to purchase
Ojai Ford was two-fold: get into new cars and get into a nice
Ojai is "a nice, small community, a clean community, a relaxed
environment, and a small store - I didn't want a big store, a
superstore - I just wanted to eventually move into a nice community
like this," he said. "outside of also becoming a new
This is the brothers' first new car dealership and Johnston said
that so far, so good. "So far it's been very relaxed, very
mellow. The people here seem to be very relaxed."
The brothers Johnston have kept the entire staff from the Bronk-Vreeland
days and Mark says he's got his eye on improvements. "We're
planning on building the business up a little more than what
it's doing now."
Those plans include an increase in the advertising profile of
the business and doubling the new car inventory. Also, said Johnston,
he'll stock "anywhere from 100 to 125 used vehicles so we
have something for everybody."
In order to make room for everything, Johnston said he's worked
out a deal with the neighboring business, Ojai Spas, to rent
a portion of their land. "We are going to be having more
used vehicles on this lot," he said. "And you can only
hold so many."
Johnston started out as a mechanic and said an additional improvement
at Ojai Ford will be the level of service. "I have a very
service-oriented background," he said. The service center
will only work on Fords, "but we'll be able to sell warranties
on all the used cars so you can take it elsewhere or whatever,"
Johnston's idea of service extends beyond just the vehicles that
"I plan on servicing the community, getting involved with
the community, being competitive on the prices, bringing more
of an influx of new and used cars in the community," he
said. "There's not just Fords in the community, we'll bring
an influx of used cars and carry them. You know, imports, like
the Boxter - the Porche - there's a BMW, a Mercedes. Those types
of cars - low mileage, late model."
In addition to providing choice on the lot, Johnston said he's
also planning to be very involved in local activities. Particularly,
he said, "Kid's sports, stuff like that, and the schools."
The jovial Johnston adds with a laugh, "So all those people
looking for donations, they can come over and see me. I'm very
Johnston, who was born in San Diego and grew up in California,
has two girls of his own, Mandy, who attends college, and Mindy,
who is in high school.
He said he'd like to "keep the people that live in Ojai
spending the money in their community. Instead of them going
outside of Ojai and maybe picking up a pre-owned Mercedes or
a pre-owned BMW or a pre-owned Lexus, we want to try to service
the people of Ojai and hopefully the people of Ojai will keep
the money in the community."
One way he wants to try to separate Ojai Ford from the competition
is by being available to his clientele. "This dealership's
slogan, basically, is going to be 'Where everyone can meet the
owner,'" he said.
Johnston is of the opinion that it's far too difficult to talk
to the boss when car shopping these days. "It's very hard
to get to the general manager, let alone get to the owner,"
he said. "I'm making myself available to try to meet all
the customers so they know who they're dealing with. You know,
it's not going to be your typical new car store where you're
there for six hours. We're going to make it very relaxed."
He says that, in the interest of keeping the local economy strong,
he and his sellers will "try to get the best deal we can
from the get-go. We are going to try to take some market share
in the Ventura-Oxnard area, which will mean more tax revenue
for the city of Ojai, because this is one of the highest sales-tax
collectors in the city of Ojai."
He said he's spent enough time in Ojai now to understand some
of the needs of the community, and that, in terms of cars, people
don't want Fords and Fords alone. "I've driven around and
there's a lot of people in this town driving imports, Chevys,
this, that, various makes and models," he said. "I
plan on basically doubling the business."
"I'm a family man and tend to love this business like a
family business," he continues. "I plan to be very
involved in the community and I'm hoping the community gets involved
with our business. I hope they make us the first stop when they're
thinking about buying a vehicle."
The Ojai Valley News
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Johnston prepares to install his new sign.