Published Aug. 24, 2021
Getting into automotive work
"You just never know what business connections will pop up"
Stadiums, arenas, ballparks… David Reed targeted these projects when he launched his architectural firm in 2009. Automotive dealerships were not on his mind. But Reed soon found success in all of these areas, which traced back to one shining source.
His timing was perfect. David was coming off a key role as project manager for the third and final phase of Oklahoma State University's Boone Pickens Stadium. That landmark opened that fall to universal acclaim before a national television audience. With its success (and Gary Sparks’ first retirement), David launched his own firm, David Reed Architecture. Reed soon received a contract to develop three arenas for Tulsa (OK) Public Schools. Multiple sports projects followed over the next decade at both the K-12 and collegiate levels – and with them came the dealer work.
This activity started with Tulsa auto magnate Jim Glover. With his son Jared donning a Cowboys football jersey, Glover toured OSU's new stadium as general contractor Flintco finished its construction. Impressed by the quality of that west endzone, Glover asked about its architect. Seeking David out, Glover hired David Reed Architecture to design his new Chevrolet dealership in Lawton, OK, and modernize his Tulsa Chevy facility.
In both cases, Reed adapted GM's national dealer standards, developed by the global architectural firm Gensler, to fit Glover's site needs and regulations. The results worked out so well, Glover hired Reed to develop new Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep facilities in Owasso. David's efforts also pleased Gensler, which recommended David Reed Architecture (renamed Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors in 2011, when Gary came out of retirement to partner with David) to other Oklahoma dealers. Reed soon put his thumbprint on showrooms in Muskogee, Claremore, and Miami, OK, as well as another Owasso operator.
In all, Reed completed eight automotive projects over the last 11 years, with more in development. That compares to 14 sports facilities, with three others under construction.
This automotive portfolio also drew the attention of Ditch Witch. That equipment manufacturer hired Sparks Reed (now Reed Architecture and Interiors, following Gary’s second retirement) to renovate its headquarters and create new design standards for its dealer network.
"You just never know what business connections will pop up through your work," Reed said with a smile. "We pride ourselves on the fact that 80 percent of our business is repetitive. The overwhelming majority of our customers have hired us again and again, and they've told their friends about us. It's very humbling and a great honor to earn their trust and serve them!"
"My first and only barter..."
Getting into the automotive business taught David Reed valuable lessons in negotiation and bartering.
"For our first discussions, I went to meet Jim (Glover) at his 31st and Memorial dealership," Reed said. "While I was waiting for him, I got to looking at the cars. And there was this brand new 2010 Camaro. Orange and black… the perfect colors.
"Jim comes into the showroom, sees me sitting in that car, and he asked if I had driven it yet. When I said no, he says, 'Hey, somebody get me the keys to this. We're going to go for a ride.'
"So here I am, driving this new six-speed standard with Jim, and he's modified it with a turbocharger," David recalled. "I'm going faster than the legal limits allowed before I even got into fifth gear. And the whole time we're talking. He's describing his project and how simple it is, that it wouldn't take me very much time at all. And when we get out, he asks how much I would charge to do some drawings for him. I flippantly said, 'The keys to this car would get you all the drawings you need.' So, he tossed me the keys, and I drove that car home that night!"
That Camaro's sheer power soon led Reed to return that beast for a less imposing (but still impressive) orange and black Camaro SS. As their projects matured, Reed and Glover also amended their deal to cover additional expenses.
"That was my first and only barter," Reed laughed. "I learned my lesson on that."