Client Profile: Utah Automotive Architecture with Ken Garff Automotive Group


Five Lessons of Gratitude

During this season of thanksgiving, Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA) is reflecting on valuable lessons of gratitude we’ve learned. We continue to be thankful for our clients.

CMA has become an expert in automotive architecture in Utah. One owner CMA has worked with for over five years is Ken Garff Automotive Group (Ken Garff), founded in 1932 by Kendall Day Garff. Today his son Robert, in conjunction with his sons, John and Matt, runs the company, which has quite a history and list of accomplishments – it’s grown to 50 dealerships nationwide, and has become the 8th largest dealership group in the country. During this working relationship, CMA has completed automotive architecture for nine dealerships throughout Utah and is currently in the design process of three more.


Here are five lessons of gratitude we’ve learned from this business partnership:

1. Develop the Team to Communicate

Creating the best team is step one. Matt Garff, the company’s Executive Director of Asset Management, is the team’s key owner contact. Though the grandson of founder Ken, Matt started at the ground level of owning and running a dealership. “He has a unique perspective of knowing how the dealership works at the ground level.” says CMA Principal Architect and automotive architecture specialist, Gerrit Timmerman. “His feedback and expertise about automotive operational flows and adjacencies are invaluable – he helps us navigate through the design possibilities for any given dealership.” CMA works closely with other key players from the company, and with United Contractors, one of the premier automotive construction specialists in Utah and  the Western US. Once the team was put in place, it has created a long-standing relationship, with structured, consistent communication. From design through construction, this automotive design and construction team meets weekly to discuss all active projects, where everyone involved can provide meaningful feedback related to budgets, the approval processes, timelines and deliverables.


Ken Garff Honda Dealership – Salt Lake City, Utah

2. Create the Best Project at the Best Price

Ken Garff is known for their vision for growth and a culture of service and high quality. They’re also known for being frugal with a dollar – but not at the expense of quality. “Everyone is thinking about economy, budget, and product throughout the entire project,” says Project Architect and automotive design specialist Mike Anderson. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to deliver a good project for a good price. We get the most out of the budget and come away with a high-quality project.”


Ken Garff Auto Body – American Fork, Utah

3. Collaborate and Negotiate to Brand

When it comes to architectural design, automobile dealerships are quite different from other types of structures. “If you think of cars as retail products, each manufacturer has an intense branding/imaging scheme,” says Gerrit Timmerman, CMA Principal Architect. The manufacturer provides the parameters of the project from a global level – the colors, building layout, logos, etc. The automotive architect must apply those branding requirements to the site, which requires a great deal of facilitation and negotiation between the dealership owner, the manufacturer, and the manufacturer’s architect. “For the Porsche Audi dealership, we worked with automotive architects in NY and in Germany,” states Timmerman. “It provides a project benefit to collaborate with owner, contractor, and capable design professionals from all over the world.” Additionally, CMA works with the local building and planning departments on each project to ensure the project meets the needs of the community and the locale.


Ken Garff Porsche-Audi Dealership – Lehi, Utah

4. Build for the Occupant

It’s apparent that Ken Garff is interested in creating spaces that benefit their employees, from their service technicians and sales team to their parts staff. They make accommodations and adjustments and plan for facilities to maximize employee comfort and efficiencies. Solatubes (a skylighting system) are used to provide natural daylight, which increases employee well-being and overall quality of life. “Throughout design, CMA interacts with each of the managers at the dealership: Service, Parts, General,” says Anderson. “We work to determine their needs and to get their recommendations. The company goes out of their way to make sure their employees are accommodated.”

Ken Garff Corporate Salt Lake City

5. Invest in the Future

A company with a clear vision of the future, Ken Garff is very forward-thinking in the infrastructure of their buildings, even though it’s not required. They invest in digital graphics and televisions, which creates flexibility for content presentation. Recently, Ken Garff moved to exterior LED lighting – a big investment. And while it’s more expensive up front, Ken Garff sees the long-term payoff.

Our partnership with Ken Garff and United Contractors has been full of wonderful experiences. We appreciate that Ken Garff is committed to the design team and the contractor from day one. It makes for a much more team-oriented environment, of investing in energy-efficient, environmentally friendly building systems; everyone is invested in a successful automotive architectural project from beginning to end.


Ken Garff Porsche-Audi Showroom – Lehi, Utah