Exterior of the Woodward Warehouse
The King of Clubs – The Woodward Warehouse?
By Rick Tavel © December 18, 2012 All Rights Reserved
What do you do when you own six collectable Corvettes, nine other collector cars and your garage at home is already filled with your daily drivers? Like most enthusiasts who have more cars than garage space, you begin to look for any and all empty spaces in friends’ and relatives’ garages where you can potentially stash a car or two. But when you are trying to find a temporary home for fifteen cars, you have to have a lot of friends with fewer cars than garage space which is highly unlikely. Besides, spreading your cars out all over the state is really not a good solution, especially when you are in the process of restoring some of them. Access to your cars is restricted to those times when the garage owner is available to let you in. Overall the ‘make do’ solution to your storage problem is really no solution at all. So after years of ‘farming out’ his collector cars to friends and relatives, as soon as he retired Joe Polito realized he needed to find a solution to his car storage dilemma. So when his wife encouraged him to find a place where he could keep his cars together, the former attorney, knowing well what “Carpe Diem” meant, ‘seized the day’ and immediately set about finding a suitable location to house his fifteen car collection.
An avid Corvette collector, Polito began collecting in 1966, at the ripe old age of sixteen, when his parents gave him a 1963 Corvette roadster. His father bought the 327 Sebring Silver roadster from his future wife’s father. Interested in ‘improving’ his car, Joe decided that the roadster could use a new paint job so he had the silver Corvette painted in a friend’s garage for $100! Joe still has his wife and the car which is a sentimental favorite in his fifteen car collection. The Corvette is currently undergoing an extensive restoration with the help of his friend, George Delorean, John Delorean’s brother. Polito first enlisted George’s help twenty years ago when his 1954 Corvette arrived from Miami and wouldn’t run. Delorean, being an expert mechanic specializing in carburetion, rebuilt the three, single barrel side-draft carburetors and the engine has not had another problem . George has been Joe’s friend and classic car mentor ever since. That first solid lifter ’63 Corvette was the spark that ignited Polito to acquire five additional collectible Corvettes. In addition to that 63 roadster, he now owns a white 1954 Corvette, a Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette “Fuelie” Split Window Coupe, a 1977 Corvette Stingray, a 1985 C4 and a black 2003 Z06.
Polito’s ’63 Split Window Coupe, two of his three Deloreans and his ’54 Corvette.
He acquired his three stainless steel Deloreans, two 1981’s and a 1982, thinking they would potentially be good investments and easily restorable based on parts availability. Interestingly, George Delorean, Joe’s friend, had never driven a Delorean until Polito bought his first one. The fifteen car collection is rounded out with six other cars, ranging from a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado to a 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge.
Polito’s ’70 GTO Judge and ’54 Corvette in the background. (The 911 Porsche is a customer’s)
So when Joe began his hunt for an affordable facility close to Woodward Avenue, it was not a simple chore. Almost two decades before he and a close friend, a General Motors attorney and fellow collector, discussed buying a building large enough to house both of their car collections. But that was a time when the real estate market in Detroit was thriving, space was at a premium, and raising the considerable funds was more difficult. So Joe had to put his dream on hold temporarily. But, when Polito began his retirement planning, building his dream became a part of those plans. He began researching similar concepts on both the East and West coasts and made five trips to similar facilities taking notes to ensure his space would be configured properly.
But what Polito envisioned was far more than a garage large enough to house his ever-growing collection, a simple storage facility was not what Joe imagined. As he searched the real estate market for the right location and building, he knew he needed space enough not only to store and display his collection but also space to work on restorations, as well as enough square footage to add a few “other concepts” to his garage. He finally found the right space about a mile from Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, Michigan, the epicenter of the world famous Woodward Dream Cruise. The 14,000 square foot building was in foreclosure and had been vacant for about four years. It was located in a small, well kept office park surrounded by a residential area. The space was much larger than was needed for his collection, but it was just the size Polito needed for the dream he had envisioned for over two decades.
Detail and light maintenance bays at The Woodward Warehouse?
The first challenge was to completely remodel the space and install a complete climate controlled environment throughout the facility, a system comparable to an automobile museum. But before that could begin, Polito found out that the roof on the building needed to be replaced. Once that was completed, the total interior of the building needed to be ‘gutted’ and remodeled to accommodate the retired attorney’s dream – to create what others have since called, the ‘mother of all man caves’ and a ‘yacht club for cars’. A space large enough for not only his collection, but space enough for approximately forty other cars in addition to his; a ‘destination facility’ where collectors could gather, socialize, talk cars and perform minor maintenance and detailing on their own classics.
Game Room in the Woodward Warehouse?
But to call it a ‘man cave’ in some ways diminishes what Polito has created; it is beyond the ‘man cave’ moniker. This is a first- class, ‘no expense spared’ enthusiast club with storage available to members. It is comparable to any fine club with all the amenities, a ‘country club for collectors and their cars’ is a more fitting description. He has designed and created spaces where ‘members’ of the Warehouse can enjoy comfortably socializing with other members and their cars. The facility includes a TV/Video Room, furnished with leather sofas, walls decorated with vintage electric and acoustic guitars surrounding the 54 inch large screen TV. If your pleasure is cigars, there is an equally comparable Cigar Lounge also with a large screen TV, black leather swivel chairs and custom ventilation system. Across the hall from these rooms is a large Game Room with a regulation size pool table and vintage pinball machines. These spaces are supplemented by a full kitchen, conference room, two small and four large office spaces, in addition to restrooms and locker space. In all, there are six flat screen TV’s throughout the facility so members won’t miss a race or sporting event. There is an outdoor patio with lounge chairs and a grill for evening barbeques. The walls throughout the social areas and the sections of the Warehouse are decorated with original automotive art and neon signs, most of it for sale.
Cigar Lounge in the Woodward Warehouse?
Storing high value collectibles required a state of the art security system with sixteen cameras and monitors throughout the facility. If you store your car in The Woodward Warehouse, you have the capability to view it ‘live’ over the web anytime day or night. Each member of Joe’s dream garage has access and use of the facility and its amenities 24/7. The final build out has space for fifty three cars, three four-post lifts, two for car storage and one for use by members for light maintenance, a large area for detailing and restoring cars, and of course the social rooms and offices.
The Woodward Warehouse grand opening was this past June, just weeks before the renowned Woodward Dream Cruise. Members were shuttled back and forth from the Warehouse to the Dream Cruise. Polito had a chef cater breakfast, lunch and hors d’oeuvres throughout the day for the members and their guests. When everyone else was standing in long lines to get a snack at the packed event, Woodward Warehouse members were dining on four star food, making it truly a dream event for members. The Warehouse sponsors several events throughout the year from Saturday morning’s Cars and Coffee to general tech talks and restoration lectures in the off season. There is a part time mechanic who primarily works on small jobs for members and is available to answer member questions. The Warehouse offers complete auto detailing for members and non members at competitive prices. In addition a BMW auto broker has rented one of the available offices in the Warehouse.
Polito has footed the entire bill for his dream space and so far the Warehouse concept has been well received by collectors, enthusiasts and businesses who are clamoring to partner-up with him in this venture. So much so that Joe’s Woodward Warehouse may soon be considered a ‘prototype’ since he is negotiating with a third party for units in Miami and Scottsdale. Full Membership including storage for one car with the use of all facilities, social amenities, detailing space and lifts currently runs $250/month, while a purely ‘Social Membership’ comes with everything but the car storage space for $150/month. Joe Polito’s Woodward Warehouse has given serious car collectors a first class venue to enjoy their cars in a setting unlike any other in Michigan. It has quickly become the destination hot spot for collectors, the King of Clubs.
(All photos in the article used with expressed permission of Joe Polito & The Woodward Warehouse?)