Approved Auto getting Kellogg exposure

A more than 5-year-old used car dealership plans to open its third location in a matter of weeks.

Approved Auto Sales, which operates stores at 3919 W. Pawnee and 400 N. West St., plans to open another lot at 11209 W. Kellogg, hopefully in the next two weeks, said Kevin Hassouneh, one of three owners in the dealership.

"We're kind of off the beaten path," Hassouneh said of the dealership's existing stores. "That's why we want to be on Kellogg."

Once opened, the new lot will have about 150 used cars. It also will have a seven-stall service center and sell accessories such as tires, Hassouneh said.

He said he's looking to hire a service manager and service technicians, as well as sales and other staff. Hassouneh said he expects to have 12 to 14 people working at the west Kellogg store.

The dealership employs eight people — not including the partners — between its two stores.

Hassouneh and partners Zack Elchami and Emad Qasim started the dealership in late 2005 after working for new car dealerships in Wichita and other cities such as Atlanta and Nashville.

They started the dealership on the premise that they didn't want to play games with customers in closing a sale —"I used to teach the games," Hassouneh said — and that they would do their best to get a customer financing for a vehicle. He said the dealership does direct lending through credit unions and banks.

He said the growth of the business has come from a combination of repeat customers, referrals and through its website. Sales generated from the website account for half of Approved Autos' business, Hassouneh said.

He said he thinks the repeat customer and referral business his dealership has built will help drive sales at its service center.

"If I tell our customers we are opening a service department, people will show up," Hassouneh said.

The service center will also serve to expand its customer base, he said.

They have also been frugal with their spending. Starting with their first store, on West Pawnee, the partners have taken a hands-on approach with each store's renovations, such as painting and cleaning.

Hassouneh said Tuesday that he was up until 1 a.m. on scaffolding stacked two-stories high cleaning windows at the west Kellogg store.

"It was scary to tell the truth," he said. "I don't like heights."