Business

Service and Value Breed Success

“The Best Little Car Rental Agency” in Grace Bay just got a whole lot bigger.

By Kathy Borsuk

Since opening in 2005, Grace Bay Car Rentals and Sales has operated from a tiny office in Grace Bay Plaza, with their fleet of rental and for-sale cars packed into the gravelly lot at its side. In February 2012, this all changed with the company’s move to a custom-designed, 8,500 sq. ft. complex on 1 1/2 acres of prime Leeward Highway property. From the new location, Grace Bay Car Rentals will continue operating as TCI’s largest independently owned car rental and auto sales agency, but will also expand its scope with a new Thrifty rental franchise, Automotive Art TCI aftermarket auto care franchise, and a six-bay auto repair shop. What won’t change, promises owner Todd Foss, is the company’s commitment to friendly service, customer care and value for money.

Grace Bay Car Rentals’ sleek new building on Leeward Highway.

Todd Foss and his wife Leslie came to the Turks & Caicos from Canada for the first time in 2004. Both had worked in education for over 15 years, Todd as a school principal and Leslie as a teacher. The couple admits they were looking for a change, and when a friend alerted them to this Caribbean opportunity, they flew to Provo to check it out.
“One walk on the beach and we were hooked,” Todd recalls. “We loved the country and its people from our first visit.” They bought the former Provo Car Rentals business and started in 2005 with a fleet of 11 cars and the same small office in Grace Bay. “We did it all,” Todd says, “not only the marketing, reservations and paperwork, but servicing and washing the cars, positioning them at either the airport or lot and helping our clients find their way around the island. It was a crazy, fun time.” The company sourced right-hand drive vehicles from Japan, a move that turned into a coup for both auto rentals and sales. The cars were affordable, dependable and, it seemed, safer for drivers unaccustomed to driving on the left side of the road. In fact, in spite of having the largest fleet of rental cars in the Islands (including an outlet on Grand Turk), GBCR has one of the lowest accident rates per car, with diminishing insurance premiums each year.

Todd and Leslie Foss of Grace Bay Car Rentals

From the beginning, Todd says, the company focused on customer service and providing good value. Their motto is “Fun, Friendly People Who Appreciate Your Business.” GBCR includes free airport pick-up and drop-off, free cell phones, free liability coverage, free child seats and a low-priced loss damage waiver, with fewer fees.
Although a variety of vehicles from cars to vans to SUVs are available, the most popular model is a four-door sedan with a full-size trunk, comfortable and convenient for tourist use. Much appreciated by visitors is GBCR’s free concierge service, where staff offers restaurant and activity recommendations, directions, maps and reservations. A truly owner-run company, one or another of the Fosses can usually be found on premise. Most customers loyally return on every trip, some have become investors, and Todd and Leslie have even visited clients when traveling.
Todd admits that moving to the Leeward Highway location was initially just to be closer to the airport, with plans for another small office and paved lot. But the partners realized that it made sense to include a repair facility for servicing the fleet . . . along with an auto parts, accessories and paint store, so that supplies could be purchased locally. And because profits had always been reinvested into the business, the expansion was financially possible.
To get the ball rolling, GBCR solicited the help of friend and local structural engineer Jamaine Malcolm of TCI Structures. Jamaine explains, “Our job is to turn concept into reality. Todd had an idea of how he wanted the building to look. We were able to handle both the architectural design and the structural engineering; fusing both services under one roof allows us to create a better product. We worked hard so that the building and grounds would blend in well with the Leeward Highway setting, including adding landscaping in front of the garage doors to mute the view.” Jamaine adds, “We also utilized ‘value engineering,’ combining functionality and cost savings with such measures as a fair-faced finish on the blocks, exposed electrical conduit and air-conditioning ducts and using a metal decking system for the floor, which requires the use of less concrete and reinforcement.” These economies actually give the building a modern, high-tech appearance that is quite attractive.
Local construction company AND Construction Ltd. built the graceful, dual-arched, two story building. AND Construction was formed by Ken Adams, a native of Salt Cay and owner of the hugely successful Building Materials Do It Best Store, and Chris Haggie in 2006, to meet the demands of the growing TCI contracting industry. Operations Director Chris Haggie explains, “We share very similar visions with the GBCR team. We believe that talented, inspired and motivated people can accomplish extraordinary results. Besides selecting, developing and retaining the right people, we focus on building a ‘people culture’ within our company, supported by a philosophy that the role of leadership is to create an environment for people to be successful.”
Passers-by during the construction period could not help but notice the bright reflective vests and safety hats worn by all of the company’s work force. AND Construction Ltd. is totally committed to continuous improvement of safety standards and performance with zero accidents as their target. Senior Project Manager Dwayne Gardiner explains, “We strive to make our work environment as safe as possible, abiding by worldwide industry accepted practices and procedures and the rules of common sense. We recognize that the protection of our employees, property, the public and the environment are essential to the efficient and successful completion of every construction project we undertake.”
Chris went on to explain, “Our company has a unique approach that builds long-term relationships with our customers, based on our values of openness, collaboration, mutual dependency, professional delivery, sustainable, profitable growth and innovation. We were extremely proud to have been selected, after a very competitive tender process, to enter into a contract with GBCR to complete the construction of their new facility. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with such a dedicated client team and we wish GBCR’s new facility and business going forward every success—they certainly deserve it!”
As the building grew throughout 2011, residents watched in excitement at one of few commercial projects in progress. In fact, this multi-million dollar leap of faith into the future is heartening to the Islands’ economy, especially so since GBCR did not accept any duty concessions.
The Thrifty franchise was added to open up the company’s market to visitors who prefer using a multi-national brand name. But, Todd says, GBCR will continue to operate as usual, maintaining its close relationship with their loyal customer base and folks who prefer to trade with a value-conscious, independent, locally owned company. In total, the company’s fleet now includes 300 vehicles.
Grace Bay Auto Service Center’s six spacious work bays will be open to the public, offering everything from battery and tire changes to oil change and vehicle service. Todd explains, “Our partner Reed Hartley has moved to the island to run the service center. Reed is an expert in the industry and has a great deal of experience operating automotive service centers.”
Todd is especially excited about the Automotive Art TCI franchise. “The Barbadian-based company has over 25 years of experience in the automotive refinish and aftermarket industry, offering a wealth of knowledge, leading-edge technology and a wide range of products and services. They operate in 32 countries in the Caribbean, U.S. and Latin America, with vendor partners including Valvoline, Megular’s and Cyclo. It was an opportunity for us that couldn’t be passed up!”
Automotive Art’s state-of-the-art refinish system utilizes a computerized color matching technology that offers over 100,000 vehicle colors for every make and model. Todd explains that the store will also offer a huge selection of wheels and tires—with all the new styles— along with car care products from car wash, waxes and tire shine all the way to chemicals and lubricants. Customers will also find a selection of accessories such as car mats, seat covers, gear knobs and LED strip lights, to name a few.
Another of the GBCR partners, Michael Hutchinson, will be the general manager on site. Todd states, “Having owners on site running the various business units offers customers a commitment that few other companies can accomplish. Owners can make customer service decisions quickly, preventing any delays or frustrations for clients.”
GBCR has typically operated with a small but very dedicated staff. For the expansion, they held a job fair to find the best people to fill an anticipated 8 to 10 new job positions. Todd says, “We received 186 applications at the fair; of these 80 were selected to take an exam; from there, 22 were short-listed for personal interviews and we selected the cream of the crop. We’re proud to say all are Turks & Caicos Islanders.”
Both the Fosses and GBCR believe strongly in giving back to the community. With their background in teaching, coaching and after-school activities for youth, Todd and Leslie have focused GBCR support ($200,000 to date!) on local projects including the Turks & Caicos Youth Parliament, TCI Youth Football Association (TCIFA), the Provo Children’s Home, the Edward C. Gartland Youth Center and the Youth Hockey Association (known as the Provo Hockey League). They are avid members of the local Salvation Army and participate in its Clement Howell High School hot lunches program and the senior citizen’s transport program in both North and Middle Caicos and Providenciales. In many cases, they donate vehicles which, Todd explains, “assists organizations in not only transporting kids to games, practices and other activities, but allows them to spend more of their budgets directly on programs.”
On the second floor of the new facility, Todd showed me the training room. This is the center of Grace Bay Auto Service’s program to help interested local high school students earn a Automotive Technician certificate. He explains, “The students will study the academic part in the morning, then go downstairs and train in the shop in the afternoon, where mentors will guide them through the program.”
Families like Todd and Leslie Foss, and community-committed businesses like Grace Bay Car Rentals, are the type of people and businesses a growing country like the TCI needs. They set a positive example of how good business practices, persistence and integrity lead to success, and how important it is to “pay it back” by investing in the next generation.



3 Comments

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Susan Pickrell
Mar 15, 2012 19:21

Fantastic story! I’m so impressed that such a young couple would be so committed to changing their community for the better. It isn’t always about the bottom line! Many companies world wide could take some lessons from them.

Keep up the great work!

nicky dines
Jul 22, 2012 15:30

Just a message for Dwayne Gardiner “whats up glad to see your achieving what you set out to do” Nice to know what the old gang from Mary Mo up too any way just thought i’d say hello Nicky

Di-Swann
Sep 5, 2013 22:18

Great job Dwayne.

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