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Posted on Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Rightway used car dealership to open at former Washtenaw Avenue restaurant

By Tom Perkins

A used car lot will soon open at the site of the former Leone’s Bistro on Washtenaw Avenue in Ypsilanti Township.

On Wednesday, Collier’s Brendan Cavender and Jim Chaconas closed a $500,000 deal with Rightway Auto, which owns 20 lots in Michigan and the midwest.

“We’ve been working to get them in Ypsilanti for a while, and this site works well for them,” Cavender said. “It’s about one acre, they’re going to clean it up, fix it up, do a lot of landscaping to make it look really nice along Washtenaw Avenue. We don’t need another vacant restaurant on that strip.”

Leone’s closed about four months ago. Cavender said the bistro focused on high-end wine and Italian fare and was likely in the wrong location and market. He said Colliers received numerous calls from people interested in opening another restaurant but said that there are already too many along that strip.


The former Leone's Bistro will become a Rightway used car lot.

Tom Perkins | For

The spot is a good fit for a dealership because of Washtenaw’s heavy traffic and the site’s high visibility, Cavender said, and he added that Rightway is known for operating respectable dealerships.

“They run a clean, high-quality operation,” he said. “That’s one thing we wanted to make sure of before we sold this property.”

The approximately 4,000-square foot building will be used for office space. There won’t be a service center on site, but Rightway Vice President Mike Crane said they will send customers to local facilities for any repair needs.

Rightway sells cars that are less than 10 years old up to the current model year, Crane said. He said the company works with 12 to 14 lenders, some of whom are very aggressive, so they specialize in helping customers re-establish or establish credit, though they also sell to people with a high score.

Crane said Rightway has identified around 25 markets in Michigan that make sense for its business model and hold a sizeable demographic that would support an affordable but quality used car dealership. He said the company has renovated a variety of buildings in southeast Michigan and knows where they will be successful.

The dealership will initially employ seven people and the lot will hold around 50 cars. A similar-size location in metro Detroit averages 53 sales monthly, and the company sold around 7,000 cars last year.

“We’ve got a diverse group of locations and this one fits from a size and area standpoint,” Crane said.

He said the Ypsilanti Township Planning Commission wasn’t initially excited about the prospect of a used car dealership at the location, but members warmed up to the idea after seeing the site plans that included extensive landscaping, new sidewalks and making renovations to the building. The commission unanimously approved the project.


Ann English

Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

I wouldn't have any idea of where it is on Washtenaw if not for the Ypsilanti Township mention by Tom Perkins. Then, too, I think of empty buildings on Washtenaw on the north side, east of Golfside. But then other comment posters mentioned The Armadillo, and I once knew someone who worked there in 1983 in the evening as a dishwasher. That gave away that this location is on the south side of Washtenaw. So Cottage Inn did take The Armadillo's place in 1983.


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

From a business perspective I think this is a perfect location. Right way caters to those who may have some credit issues and want a late model used car. My understanding is they are very reputable and are trying to do away with the slimy "buy here pay here" used car lots that are filled with over priced cars for people who may not qualify for the better rate loans. The fact is, there is a dividing line where a high end 'bistro" or upscale restaurant can survive in Washtenaw county. US 23 or Carpenter is that line. West of 23 is very different than east of 23 for many people.


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

The statements "about one acre" along with the "approximately 4,000-square foot building", and "the lot will hold around 50 cars". Not to mention all the landscaping that they're supposed to add? Seems like a tight squeeze? In a previous life for many years I was a "lot jockey" organizing a rather large car lot. You'd be surprised how much you can do with many similar cars with a small turning radius with minimal space. But when you add to the mix a variety of different vehicles and a couple quarter ton and half ton trucks with large turning radius' and then it gets interesting unless the one skilled individual will be moving any cars on and off the lot.

Duc d'Escargot

Sun, Jun 3, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Oops, sorry that should be "once" not "one" in my comment.

Duc d'Escargot

Sun, Jun 3, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

I don't have any background in auto retailing but I'm inclined to agree. The existing building seems to have more square footage than a used car dealer needs, while the paved area is too small to hold the inventory along with parking for staff and customers. On the other hand, maybe the lot is deep enough. I see no problem with having a used car dealer there, especially if the property is improved. That's a better fate than having an empty building. Speaking as a pedestrian and bike rider, I do hope the new sidewalks make the area more accessible. By the way, as someone else noted, this property was one the Gingham Inn, which dated back to the days when Washtenaw was a two-lane road!

Mike D.

Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

How in the world can a a news story about a new business not contain an address or even a cross-street. Washtenaw is miles long. I have never heard of Leone's, so that doesn't help. Time to go back to remedial journalism school, Tom.


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

It's in Ypsilanti diagonally across the street from Cueter Chrysler Jeep Doge Ram dealership

Perry White

Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

I agree. Who, what, where, when, why and how should be in every story. The only way I figured out where this is is because of the previous comment that it's where the Gingham Inn was. Of course, that burned down about 40 years ago, so that's not much help for most readers.


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

Boring and unsightly. This goes in the wrong direction for improving Washtenaw.

Linda Peck

Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

I like this because I think used cars are the affordable way to, if they are in good shape.


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

Wasn't that the old Armadillo back before it was The Cottage Inn?


Sun, Jun 3, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

I think Gypsies filled in a spot somewhere in there also.


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Yes it was the Armadillo, with it's mechanical bull for a while, and before that it was (in another building) the Gingham Inn.


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

In 82 or 83 it was Cottage Inn

dading dont delete me bro

Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.



Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 12:04 p.m.

Craig...Your'e right but just slightly.Cottage Inn was there for years.That stretch of road on that side hasn't been very good for restaurants.The Chinese place was one of them,which is why I was surprised to see them dump so much money into it.After A&W left ( it wasn't for lack of business the owners retired ) it's been dead there also


Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

Cottage Inn did well there until it changed hands. Than the quality suffered.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

anything is better than empty. Restaurants just don't seem to work well there. Maybe AATA can put a bus stop in front of it to facilitate foot traffic..... ;)