Auto shop owner hopes to rezone new building for retail

Tom Kardon fought for years to win rezoning for new store but now must alter plans
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 2:34 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 14, 2009

COLUMBIA — Tom Kardon spent more than a decade trying to build an auto parts store on the corner of Third Avenue and Providence Road. The building is now complete, but Kardon still has obstacles to face before he can open his shop.

Kardon is the owner of Tom’s Imports, an auto shop that sells parts for German-made cars. He planned to sell parts for a wider variety of import cars at the new store, but economic conditions have prevented him from opening it.

“The economy’s bad so I’m afraid to open it,” Kardon said. “That’s the problem. I can’t get a loan to open it. They (the bank) wouldn’t even loan me enough money for the building.”

About four weeks ago, Kardon said, he went to a bank seeking a loan to cover the costs of his initial inventory. He said he was told that the bank couldn’t loan him the $500,000 he needed. Kardon doesn’t have the money to pay for his inventory, so his store currently sits empty.

“If the bank loaned me a half-million for parts, I’d open the store tomorrow,” Kardon said. “No bank will loan you money for inventory. They won’t even loan you money for buildings anymore.”

The situation has prompted Kardon to change his original plan for the building. He hopes to use half of the building for an auto parts store and to rent out the other half to a retail business. Renting out half of the building would lower the costs of operating the store and give Kardon the money he needs to pay for his first batch of inventory.

The problem is that Kardon has planned commercial zoning now, which restricts use of the property to an auto parts business. Before he can rent out part of it, he'll have to have the land rezoned.