WESTFIELD – For 50 years, Brill’s Auto Sales has earned, and maintained, what owner David Albert says is its “reputation for honesty.”
In addition, Brill’s value and customer service have set it apart from other dealers, Albert said.
“That enabled us to be the only AAA certified repair facility in Westfield. We enjoy and rely on our repeat customer base and their referrals to their friends and families. To this day, we have customers who, although they have moved out of state — as far away as North Carolina – still come to us when they need a vehicle. We really pride ourselves on being able to have this type of positive and long-lasting impact on our customers.”
To celebrate Brill’s 50th anniversary, and Albert’s appreciation of Brill’s loyal customers, the business is sponsoring a scholarship this year.
“Needless to say, the last year has been an experience for everyone, and we really truly value our customers and their business,” Albert said. “This whole experience has enabled us to form stronger bonds with our customer base and remain a part of the fabric of the community of Westfield.
“So, as a way to give back, this year for the first time, we are offering a $1,000 scholarship to a student graduating from either Westfield High School or Westfield Technical Academy. We understand how important and expensive it is to get an education, so we decided to give back in this way.”
Over the years, the business changed but remains in its original location at 388 Southampton Road. When Albert took over as owner from David Brill in 2002, Brill’s offered high-end Buicks and Cadillacs.
“He was known as a specialist in Cadillac repair and GM vehicles in general,” said Albert. “When I took over in 2002, it was a much different landscape. With many more makes and models for consumers to choose from, it meant I needed not only to have a different type of inventory on hand to meet their changing needs, I also needed to have the expertise to service a different type of inventory — getting the software and tools, as well as ensuring my staff had the training and knowledge in order to be a full-service facility for my customers.”
Albert said the car business has changed over the years in a few different ways – consumer needs, ways of reaching out to and engaging customers, as well as the increasing sophistication of the vehicles themselves.
“Facebook and the Internet have changed the shape of advertising and given consumers the ability to get more information about the market more easily,” he said. “In terms of consumer needs, many families have more than one vehicle these days — back in 1971, most families had only one car, not multiple. Over time the product has changed as well, with so many more types of vehicles to choose from than back then.”
Albert expanded the building in 2005 to include more space for sales and service departments, and Albert said “we are the only dealer of our size to have an indoor showroom with vehicles on display.”
Albert was always interested in cars, studying automotive in high school. After high school, he worked for 12 years in the airline industry, “and then in 1997 came back to my love of cars and turned that into a career.”
Albert’s first memory about cars was re-building a car that didn’t run, at the age of 14, so that he could have a car to drive when he got his license.
“Back in those days, there wasn’t a lot of money and if I wanted to have a car, it meant I was going to have to get something that needed some work,” he recalled. “I could only afford something that wasn’t running but knew that I could make it run.”
While Albert doesn’t have one all-time favorite or dream vehicle, he said he is “very fond of the 1950’s and 1960’s American manufactured automobiles. I guess you could say I really enjoy ‘good-ole’ American muscle cars!”
Albert’s daughter Alexandria is set to take over the business when he retires, and Albert said she has been around cars, and Brill’s, her entire life.
“My daughter is working alongside me, to learn all she can, to be prepared for when she feels ready to be the next owner,” said Albert. “She’s learning the whole operation – sales, service, marketing and purchasing. I’m not sure if I will ever fully retire – ‘car guys’ find it hard to leave their passions behind.”
Albert said his daughter has grown up around cars, from the time she was born, riding in antique cars and going to car events.
“She was 14 when she first started ‘working’ at Brills after school and during summer vacation — doing things like filing and cleaning. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend that type of time with her, not only as my daughter, but also helping her see the opportunities of being a business owner,” said Albert. “Alexandria is a graduate of Westfield State University, with a degree in Business & Marketing. Her dream car is a 2002 Chevy Monte Carlo SS Supercharged.”
The pandemic effected Brill’s, as it did just about every other business.
“COVID has had a dramatic impact, especially on sales,” said Albert. “Basically overnight, the ability to buy cars stopped. Auctions were closed. And for many weeks, we were unable to sell cars because of government restrictions. The RMV was closed, and even when they did re-open, it was very challenging to get a car registered.”
Albert said the auction/purchase process also evolved, going from in-person buying to online auctions.
“In terms of our customers, we of course, had to adapt our practices to follow government restrictions on things like the number of people in the showroom at a time, cleaning and disinfecting for the safety of our customers and staff,” he said. “Brills closed on March 26, 2020 and slowly re-opened in early June, calling employees back one at a time.”
Albert said Brill’s has survived a lot since it opened in 1971, and he expects it will survive, adapt, and thrive well into the future.