Heather Craig has a knack for breathing new life into things. She began three years ago purchasing automobiles, ATVs and other power motor crafts and then resold them from a small facility in St. Petersburg.
When the itch to expand grew more than the location could accommodate, she and her husband began looking for an alternative.
She found it in a vacated Suzuki car dealership on Cortez Boulevard with a showroom that was almost molded to fit Craig’s vision. The economic downturn that devastated the dealership and leveled competition in Hernando County turned into a gold mine find for Halo Auto Sports.
The former dealership has Cortez Boulevard frontage, room to display vehicles out front, a showroom, eight bays for auto repair behind and ample storage lots in the back plus room to expand when needed.
The building had been vacant for about three years, Craig said, but was not in disrepair. With very minor cosmetic adjustments, Halo Auto Sports was able to make a clean transition.
“If we could have found this facility in St. Pete, we would have stayed,” she said. Yet the move to rural Hernando County was a smart decision since many of her customers live in areas north. “We are closer to them now,” she said.
And Brooksville certainly offered the calming rural atmosphere not experienced in the congestion of downtown St. Pete.
Craig transported her inventory of nearly anything on wheels, from all terrain vehicles to an antique tractor. She carries a selection of gently used vehicles of every make and model, street legal toys and even a race car inside the sales floor.
In just days of closing on the facility, Halo Auto Sports opened its doors to a soft opening, attracting curious customers who are pulled in by the selection of toys out front.
Sandy Bagley and Debra Graham were cruising Cortez Boulevard during a recent visit from Citrus County and spotted the vehicles out front. The couple lives on a piece of rural property near the rock pits where they like to explore. When Bagley spotted the “toys” out front, he had to pull in.
They were pleasantly surprised by the addition of Halo Auto Sports to their favorite area to vehicle shop.
“Our son has a golf cart that he lifted and did all kinds of things to,” Graham said. “But he lost a wheel and then his front end. So we wanted to see what is out there.”
Bagley mentioned they have several different ages of grandchildren who would be interested in several of the unique finds inside the showroom.
They carry street and dirt bikes, newer used cars, ATVs, side by sides, dune buggies, and unusual finds like the tractor. They also offer full service auto repair.
Craig said the move from Pinellas County is a commitment that has to work.
“There’s no turning back,” she said.
And she predicts, with the onset of acres and acres of rural property and the attraction of Hernando County to other established businesses looking to open here, she has found the perfect new home for her business and her life.
The climate in Hernando County seems just right for catering to the adventurous spirit, with miles of open ranges, farms and fields and back roads to explore.
The Craigs have already settled into the county, leasing a home in Southern Hills as they adjust to the area. She expects they will eventually purchase property where the can try out some of their inventory.
But judging by their first week in business, not much will remain long enough to collect any dust.
“You don’t get emotionally involved,” she said, “because it usually moves fast.”
In just over a week, she has already made five deals, from a sparkly white Corvette to a dirt bike to a UTV (utility task vehicle).
“I’ll need to start restocking,” she said.
Craig will grab at anything that appeals to their sense of adventure. Like a “fire engine red”, antique, old Eustice Fire Department Engine that is being worked on in the back.
“We like anything that’s cool and funky and interesting,” she said. “But our bread and butter is general used car sales.
“The power sports, ATVs, Side by Sides, and UTVs, we expect will definitely grow here,” she said.
Biz at a Glance