The East End's sole Mini dealership, Mini of Southampton, welcomed the new year from a new location — a significantly larger showroom than its former home.
The remodeled showroom at 35 Montauk Highway in Southampton has the capacity for eight vehicles, which is twice the space of the dealership's old location on County Road 39A, sales manager James Reister explained Monday. Reister said that more room was needed to show off Mini's offerings because, since Mini came to America 10 years ago, it has grown from one model to six.
The greater size isn't the only benefit. "We have much better traffic and visibility," Reister said.
Among the vehicles on display is a limited edition Mini made by Rolls Royce. It is one of just 1,000 that were made, with lamb's wool carpet, a cashmere headliner and walnut veneer.
Also on display is the Mini Countryman, a crossover SUV that Mini introduced in 2010. Reister said that Mini's business grew 30 percent thanks to the Countryman, which is larger that typical Minis and fit for a buyer with a family.
Reister himself is the last person one would expect to drive a Mini — he is 6 feet, 9 inches tall. In fact, he said he gets a few laughs when he pulls up to 7-Eleven and steps out of his Mini. Onlookers cannot believe he fits in it. But he said that — though it may not look like it from the outside — the vehicles have ample legroom, because Minis are designed with the engine sideways.
"It's a car that people love out here, for parking in tight spaces," Reister said.
Many Mini drivers around Southampton keep theirs as a third or fourth car, he said, and contractors use it to jockey from job site to job site, using far less fuel than their trucks would need.
He sees many Minis returned at the end of a lease with less than 10,000 miles on them, because second homeowners on the East End may only use the vehicles on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But then they turn around and lease a new one, he said, because Minis are fun to drive on the Hamptons' windy roads.
"Mini is all about having fun — the handling and the performance," Reister said, explaining that it is called "go kart handling." With a low center of gravity and wide wheel base, the steering is tight and safe, he said.
Mini owners from all over Long Island as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut visit Mini of Southampton for road rallies, and take a spin out to Montauk.
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Reister, a Southampton native now living in Calverton, began working for Mini in 2004, when the dealership was known as Mini of the Hamptons. In April of 2011, he became the sales manager.
The dealership's new spot had been the home of Mini of Southampton's sister dealer, BMW of Southampton, which moved to a remodeled showroom on County Road 39A that was once the home of Mercedes-Benz of Southampton.
The new Mini of Southampton is decked out with Mini's signature colors: The walls are black, save for red columns, a green accent wall, a yellow accent wall — and a hollowed Mini hardtop mounted high on a wall. The showroom is also decorated with a traditional British mailbox and red phone booth, which Reister said will become a computer kiosk for customizing vehicles — one of the things that Mini is known for.
He noted that each model is available in at least 10 colors, and there are many customization options, from blue leather interiors to checkerboard bonnet stripes and roof graphics. "It's not your cookie-cutter type of car," he said.
The 3,000-square-foot dealership has a total of four salespeople and averages 30 vehicles, new and used, sold or leased per month, Reister said. There is also a service department, and an 80-inch television is being installed in the lounge for the enjoyment of waiting customers, he said.
Do you drive a customized Mini from Mini of Southampton? Share a photo of it here by clicking the "Upload Photos and Videos" button underneath the slide show.