Unlike California or Florida, Colorado isn't known as a sports car state. We simply have too much crazy weather. But, despite mother nature's push to get us into all-wheel drive vehicles year round, there is a market for super-fast, super expensive sports cars. Ferrari of Denver specializes in selling cars most of us will never even get to be a passenger in, let alone drive. And not just Ferraris, but Maseratis, Benleys and Lotuses. What's it like to sell them? We asked the dealership's Vaughan Grice.
Westword: Tell us a little about your history at Ferrari of Denver.
Vaughan Grice: I started in July of 2009. My boss at the store that I used to work at was hired as the new general manager at FoD, and he asked me to join him there. Honestly, I was flattered by the opportunity, but also a little nervous about it at first because of the extremely harsh economic conditions at the time. I ultimately decided that it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up, and undoubtedly one that would never be presented again. Like lots of people, I've always been a huge fan of exotic cars, so getting to be around them every day would be a surreal experience. I was given the Maserati Brand Specialist position. I really didn't know much going in about Ferraris, Maseratis, Bentleys or Lotuses, so I had to learn a lot very quickly about the cars, the histories of the companies, the business -- I'm still learning new things every day.
Why did you decide to start working there and was there a moment when you realized it was something you really wanted to do?
It was an offer I couldn't refuse! The moment that I realized it was my dream job was two or three days into it, when I drove a Ferrari for the first time. It was a 1997 355 Spider, six-speed gated shifter, yellow/black -- I'll never forget it. I have been in the automotive industry for a long time and had driven some really cool cars, but I had never driven a car that made my palms sweat and my heart race like a Ferrari. You realize that it's an incredibly special machine once you're behind the wheel and the smile doesn't leave your face for hours. It gave me a sincere appreciation for the cars that I get to sell.
Is there a difference between a high end dealership like this and a "normal car" dealership?
I think so. We sell everything across the gamut, from new Bentleys to old Dodge Scouts, ultra-rare exotic cars to teenagers' first cars. It doesn't matter what you buy from us, we will make it a unique, special experience. We bend over backwards to make buying cars from us painless, fun and memorable. We do an extraordinary amount of events too, mostly for charities, which I believe differentiates our store a little bit. One annual event we host is a fundraiser for the American Heart Association, where people come in and donate a minimum amount, usually around $25 or more, and they get to drive or ride in a car of their choice for about fifteen minutes. Hundreds of people show up, and we always raise a lot of money for the AHA.
Can you describe an average day?
Usually it consists of following up with clients, a little negotiating now and then, and hopefully making a deal and getting somebody into a car they've always dreamed of owning. To be honest though, we probably spend most of our time talking to people who come in to just check out the cars, which I enjoy doing. A lot of families, from both Colorado and out of state, come in while they're in the in the area, or sometimes they go way out of their way to stop by for a little while. Another big part of my job, and one of the more stressful, is periodically rearranging the cars in the showroom -- sometimes it's a really tight fit.
What's the best part about your job?
I like showing kids the cars, letting them sit in them, sometimes taking them for rides on their birthdays, things like that. Another favorite part is when I get to be a part of a person's long-awaited 'dream come true'. For example, the first Ferrari I sold was to a relatively young guy. He studied abroad in Italy and used to go to Maranello and peek over the fence surrounding Ferrari's very secretive 'Fiarano' test track. While he was spying, the 360 Modena was in its production and testing phase. As he used to watch the test cars race around the track, he decided he wanted to buy one some day. About ten years later -- a week into my tenure at FoD -- he came walking into our showroom, and I greeted him. After a couple days, he was buying his 2001 Rosa Corsa Red 360 Modena F1. He didn't hug me that day, but I think he was on the cusp of doing so as we were shaking hands. It was a very memorable day for him and myself.
What's the worst part?
Working weeks or sometimes months on deals that don't come to fruition.
How about the biggest misconception?
I hear a lot of people tell me how surprised they are at how nice and accommodating we are to them when they come into our showroom but have no intention of buying any of our cars. Sometimes they think we are going to ask them to leave. Anybody can come in, anytime. And if I'm not busy, I'll personally give you a short tour and let you sit behind the wheel of your favorite car in the showroom.
Any amazing celebrity stories you can share?
We sell cars to athletes quite a bit, but most of our clientele are people in the business world, maybe doctors, lawyers, things like that. I have lots of stories, but none really that involve anybody with any kind of celebrity status. I will say this, our store seems to attract -- how should I say this -- extraordinarily unique people quite often, almost on a daily basis. Some of them buy cars, some of them say they are going to but never do. It's the people, even more so than the cars, that really make my job fun and interesting.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.