TILTON — There is no Honda dealership between Concord and Berlin, yet there are plenty of that brand’s vehicles on the roads in central New Hampshire. That fact hadn’t eluded Honda officials, so they invited their dealers to submit a proposal to fill that gap.
The winning applicant was Planet Honda, of Union, New Jersey, which has sold a quarter-million Hondas since it was founded in 1973. Owners Bill Feinstein and Tim Ciasulli have already started site work for a new dealership in Tilton off Exit 20 of I-93. They hope to open in March of next year.
Though the name comes from New Jersey, Planet Honda has a local connection.
“I’ve been a resident of Tuftonborough, and love the Lakes Region, love what’s going on with it, we see a great market which is frankly underserved,” Ciasulli said. “We are going to Planetize the region.”
Planet Honda will be setting up shop in a roughly 50,000-square-foot building on Route 3, on 10 acres of land across the street from Lowe’s Drive. Feinstein and Ciasulli purchased the land from the Gaudet family, which operates the AutoServ family of dealerships. Not only will Planet Honda be in AutoServ’s orbit, they will also be just across the interstate from Belknap Subaru. Automobile shoppers who take will have a constellation of 10 vehicle brands to choose from at Exit 20.
"We were very supportive in assisting Planet Honda’s move to Exit 20, knowing that it would help in being an economic boom for the town of Tilton and the surrounding area by making Tilton a regional car purchase destination," said AutoServ CEO Dennis Gaudet.
Even with all the nearby competition, Planet Honda owners think they’ll be able to garner their share of attention.
“This will be more Hondas in one location than anything north of Boston,” said Ciasulli.
The New Jersey dealership retailed 8,400 new and used cars last year, making it one of the top 10 Honda dealerships in the country. Feinstein said he expects the addition of a sales point in Tilton will allow them to significantly increase their overall sales.
“I think we should be selling over 2,000 Hondas a year,” in Tilton, Feinstein said. His business partner agreed.
“Planet Honda sells more because we sell it for less, we sell it for less because we sell more,” Ciasulli said.
Planet Honda will employ about 40 people when it opens, and the staff will grow to about 60 over time, Ciasulli said, adding that he expects to hire locals as well as people from outside of the region.
“We are so close to the capital city, I think we’ll get a lot of people from Concord. I’ve been getting hits from Linked In from people all over the state of New Hampshire, and even from Massachusetts,” Ciasulli said.
As a Tuftonboro resident, Ciasulli said he’s been watching the Lakes Region develop as a market, as people who grow up in the area leave to begin their careers, only to return a few years later, “because of the quality of life,” he said. Meanwhile, people who bought local properties as vacation homes have decided to live here year-round. Current events will only accelerate the trend, he said.
“Most recently it’s been COVID-19, there’s been an exodus out of the cities. People are moving out of the cities for a host of reasons. It appears that the Lakes Region and the areas around it are the beneficiary of it,” Ciasulli said.
Some of Planet Honda’s new neighbors said they’re welcoming the addition to the community.
Donna Gaudet-Hosmer, who serves as general counsel for her family's business, said: “Tim and Bill seem civic-minded. Like AutoServ, I believe their dealership will be a major contributor beyond quality jobs which are sorely needed in these difficult times, jobs that provide professional growth and family sustaining wages/benefits. These guys will definitely give back and invest in the local community.” She noted that Ciasulli has been a supporter of local nonprofit efforts, and that his son runs a brewery in Wolfeboro.
Jeanie Forrester, the town administrator in Tilton, said she is glad to see the project taking shape.
“Economic development is a priority in Tilton and the town is excited that Honda chose our community for its new dealership. The project developers were thoughtful and accommodating to any concerns that were voiced during the process and we look forward to a positive relationship. The economic activity, tax revenue, and jobs are a very welcome addition,” said Forrester.