Fiat -- and J-Lo ad convertibles -- come to Fresno

October 23, 2011 

A longtime Fresno family dealership is bringing the Italian automaker Fiat to the Valley.

Fiat of Fresno joins the Fresno Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership owned by the Finegan family on Blackstone Avenue, north of Bullard Avenue.

"Fiat owns Chrysler and they are the sixth-largest automaker in the world, so we figured bringing Fiat back only strengthened our identity here in the Valley," sales manager Brian Finegan said.

The dealership is remodeling its Lexus showroom into a modern, state-of-the-art sales center for Fiat's 500 model. The sales center opened Oct. 12 shortly after the first group of vehicles was delivered.

The small three-door car is available in three different price levels and a convertible version such as the one promoted by actress and singer Jennifer Lopez.

Customers have come into the dealership asking for the Jennifer Lopez car, Finegan said. Three of the convertibles used on the set of Lopez's commercial in Los Angeles were sent to the Fresno dealership.

Finegan doesn't know if Lopez sat in them or drove them, but they were on-set, he said.

Swapping renewed

The Sunnyside Swap Meet -- dormant for at least a dozen years -- has been resurrected by new managers who are father and son.

Frank and Bryan Parisi brought the well-known swap meet, at Olive and Clovis avenues, back to life in early October with more 200 vendors. And like the original swap meet, which was held on the former Sunnyside Drive-In's grounds, the new vendors offer an eclectic mix of stuff from pomegranates to old tools.

Bryan Parisi said he wants to keep the feel of the old swap meet by encouraging vendors to bring their best yard-sale items.

"We do not want this to become a dollar store without a roof," he said. "We want to make this interesting and fun, like it used to be."

As a young boy, Parisi had fond memories of spending hours at the swap meet, looking for cool stuff to buy. "It was like a treasure hunt," he said.

The swap meet is open Saturday and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Space for vendors is on a first-come, first-serve basis and costs $15 for a spot measuring 20 by 25 feet. For more information, call 485-7927 (SWAP).

Although the swap meet has been open only a few weekends, Parisi already is thinking about doing a farmers market or an antiques-only day on Friday.

Tech tendrils

A Selma technology business with a branch in Hanford continues to extend its tendrils in the Valley, opening a new store next week in northwest Fresno.

South Valley Computers, which repairs and builds computers for home and small-business users, plans to open Monday in a small storefront at 5627 N. Figarden Drive.

Owner Gary Alexander opened the company's first store in downtown Selma in 1995. A second South Valley Computers opened in Hanford two years ago. James Chodes will be the technician working at the Fresno store. The store's number is (559) 271-9151.

Fresno presents a more crowded field of competitors in computer sales and repair, but Alexander said many computer owners are opting to save money by having their machines repaired rather than invest in new equipment.

"The time is right and business is good," Alexander said, adding that he is looking for opportunities to add a fourth location either in northeast Fresno or Clovis.

Bee staff writers BoNhia Lee, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Sheehan contributed to Word on the Street. It was compiled by Sheehan. The reporters can be reached at business@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6330.

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