A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Mall

J.C. Howard

J.C. Howard | Mar 15, 2018

What do you expect to see when you go to a mall? Maybe a Forever 21 or a Foot Locker. Perhaps a Brookstone or a Macy’s. If there’s not a Dairy Queen or Orange Julius, that’s obviously grounds for professional malpractice. But one thing that no one expects to see in a mall? A Tesla dealership.

Tesla Showroom storefront view (Note: Though those strollers are sweet rides, they are not for sale here)

But that’s exactly what you’ll get if you take a trip to The Americana at Brand in Glendale, California. Just down the road from the famous Warner Bros. Studios, and in the shadow of the legendary "Hollywood" sign, sits an odd anomaly of a mall.

The Americana is an outdoor strip mall that houses a Barnes and Noble, but also a Barneys. One can catch a matinee of Marvel’s Black Panther at the movie theater and then head across the courtyard to browse the latest Tiffany Collection. This is the kind of place where you can run into a high school friend in front of the gold statue in the middle of the fountain, or you might run into Simon Helberg (CBS Big Bang Theory’s 'Howard Wolowitz') at the Shake Shack. Or if you happen to be a web lackey for Car Talk, you just might run into an interesting story.

Your one-stop shop for Cheesecake, photos with celebrities, and luxury cars...duh.

The lack of a door on the storefront creates an open atmosphere that says to anyone that may happen by, “Come on in…whether you can afford one or not.” Once you do, you see grand pictures of luxury vehicles, large screens with looping information, and of course three fully stocked Tesla models: The S, 3, and X. Before you ask, yes, they are arranged in that order, and no, you aren’t a middle schooler if you snicker at that; Elon Musk knows what he’s spelling. But this is exactly the aim of the showroom being in a place like this. Tesla doesn’t buy ads, commercials, or billboards, they rely on word of mouth and foot traffic.

Tesla Model X with outstretched Falcon-wing doors.

A Tesla Product Specialist named Nick greets folks as they walk into the showroom that he describes as “Different than any other car dealership.” He says the dealership has been in that location since February 2017 and when asked how many cars they sell out of that particular location, he responds, “[Tesla doesn’t] like us to give out exact numbers, but I can tell you, we sell cars.”

Nick has worked out of the showroom pretty much since it opened. He says he wanted to work at either Tesla or Apple, but he decided to work at Tesla because he liked the “startup culture.” One may hope that he was making an ignition-based pun, but alas he seems to mean the actual work environment. (By the way, had he decided to work for Apple, he could have been working like four stores down; this mall has everything!)

Now, what if someone who wandered in after grabbing a banana split from the Haagen-Dazs kiosk (literally out in front of the showroom) decided they wanted to buy a Tesla? Simple, a potential buyer would head to one of the computers at the back—but still very much on the floor—of the showroom and begin to customize their car. Like a snowflake, no two Teslas are exactly the same. Er, unless they are. In which case they would be, but if they aren’t then…they aren’t? Anyway, the point is they’re customizable. The down payment on your Tesla will set you back $8,000, but, only $2,500 is paid at the dealership; the balance is due once the car is delivered to you, or—if you don’t mind taking a trip to Fremont, California—when you pick it up at the Tesla factory in the Bay Area.

So no, no one drives away with a Tesla from this location, but for many it’s still their chance to get behind the wheel. Nick says that most of the folks that come into the showroom are young kids who just want to be inside of a Tesla. Perhaps the open storefront encourages visitors to very much make themselves at home. Nick says that he still and continuously finds it striking that people of all walks of life will just get in the car without hesitation. They spill things without a second thought and it’s no problem, which means that no matter how many fancy stores, or how much Frank Sinatra is played over the PA system while the fountain water dances, a mall is still a mall.

Note: Gold statue is not an Oscar; he looked like more of a Paul, perhaps even a Charles.

While Tesla cars have historically had a price tag that exceeds the average American income, the newest model—the Model 3, released in mid-2017 and on back order until mid-2018—is in fact more reasonably priced. Granted, still more than twice what I paid for my used Civic, but an autonomous electric vehicle for less than $40k is kind of a steal now days. If you haven’t seen a Tesla showroom in your area yet, savor life’s simplicities, because it’s probably coming soon. So far Tesla has stores and “Galleries” (what their website ACTUALLY calls them) in 26 states and the District of Columbia. So grab the kids and a couple of Hot-Dogs-On-A-Stick and head to the nearest mall. Fun for the whole family, and unless you end up leaving with a new car on order, much cheaper than a trip to Legoland. 


(All photos by J.C. Howard)

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