Four Years After Braintree Debut, Longtime Car Dealer Tufankjian Expands Again
Toyota of Braintree opened where the old Hilltop Steak House used to be near the Rotary in 2008.
By the time Charles Tufankjian Jr. graduated from Whitman-Hanson High School some 50 years ago, he was already selling cars. He worked his way up at his father's Oldsmobile dealership in Bridgewater, as a cleaner and technician, then went to school in Flint, MI and became one of the youngest licensed dealers in the country in his early 20s.
"I always loved cars," Tufankjian said in an interview marking his fourth anniversary operating Toyota of Braintree. "All my life I've only done two things – Oldsmobile and Toyota."
This summer Tufankjian expanded that list by one, adding a Hyundai dealership in Plymouth. The addition comes on the heels of a long run of challenges for Tufankjian and his sons Greg and David, who co-own the business with him.
The Braintree location opened at the start of the worst economic downturn in the U.S. since the Great Depression. Following that were Toyota recalls and a tsunami that rocked Japan and its supply chain.
"[The economy] was a huge obstacle," Tufankjian said. "People had money but they didn't want to spend it."
It was not the first time he had faced adversity in the car business. After working with his father and brother for years in Bridgewater, Tufankjian decided in the mid-1990s to branch out on his own with his sons. He found a Toyota dealership to take over on Bridge Street in North Weymouth, which he re-opened in the summer of 1994.
"It was challenging times," Tufankjian said. The U.S. was just starting to emerge from another recession and the previous owner had run the dealership into the ground.
Throughout the next decade, the Tufankjians built up the dealership in Weymouth by focusing on customer service and providing a quality, and increasingly American-made product.
"Our name and our reputation kind of speaks for itself," Tufankjian said. "We've been on the South Shore all our lives."
By 2007, though, the business had become too large for its location. The lot in Weymouth could only show 200 vehicles at a time and it was difficult to grow the customer base without being situated next to a major highway.
Tufankjian began looking around the area for a new location, nearly settling on a property in Hingham near the Derby Street Shoppes before buying four acres of land from the Hilltop Restaurant next to the Braintree Rotary and Route 3. The family was originally seeking eight acres, but couldn't turn away from the prime location.
"So we dug a huge hole and we went up," Tufankjian said.
The new location holds more than 700 vehicles, including hundreds inside the building, where a ramp can easily transport them up and down from the lower levels where technicians work to the highest, where cars, SUVs and trucks are shown and stored.
Two months ago, Tufankjian opened a dealership on Court Street in Plymouth. There he and his sons sell Hyundai's – a car brand that has developed similarly to Toyota in the United States over the past two decades.
"Ten years ago it was a disposable car," Tufankjian said. "Now it is a desirable car and the quality is way up."
Future plans in Plymouth include acquiring more property to build a new facility. Along with splitting his time between Braintree and Plymouth, Tufankjian is also focused – as his father and grandfather before him in Bridgewater – on being a part of the community.
In Braintree, this has included being part of efforts such as Toys for Tots and Braintree High School's Credit for Life Fair. Most of his customers, Tufankjian notes, comes from within a three-mile radius.
"Braintree is a great town," he said. "You get out of something what you give back."