After assessing a city car buying marketplace in which few wanted to spend weekends kicking tires, a Sheepshead Bay leasing company embraced a novel and Internet-intensive, “in fifteen minutes, I can have you in a car” paradigm
By James Tate • photos by jon Gordon
A short distance from the Brighton Beach waterfront, home to a historic fishing community and a predominantly Russian population, is the South Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay. Named for a once abundant fish that is said to be making a comeback in the local waters, this neighborhood, likewise, is experiencing a resurgence—after decades of economic uncertainty and a long period of regrowth following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. An influx of residents from costlier areas of the city has fueled development, including a 30-story residential and commercial tower on Voorhies Avenue. Not only are New Yorkers fleeing rising prices elsewhere—for many, Sheepshead Bay offers a better quality of life away from the jostle of more populated stretches.
Not far from the boardwalk, on Avenue Z, Alex Tsirulnikov takes in the area’s changing pace with the practiced eye of a long-time resident. (“I came here in 1989,” he said. “I was 15, and my now-business partner was 13.”) Infinite Auto Leasing, which he and and his partner, Serge Gayetsky, opened 13 years ago, caters to its swirl of customers, old and new, by offering a spectrum of mid- and high-range vehicles through a service model built around New Yorkers’ famous busyness.
“People don’t want to shop and spend their time in a dealership,” he explained. “In 15 minutes, I can get you a car.”
With a combination of Infinite’s inclusive virtual interface and rapid-fire deliveries, the ambition is to reduce the often burdensome task of car shopping into a few clicks—something that can be accomplished over lunch.
From his 2,000-square-foot offices and adjacent lot in southern Sheepshead Bay, just four blocks from the waterfront, Tsirulnikov and a 13-member team send vehicles as far as Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida, but a majority of their clients are from the neighborhood.
“The radius is big and I would say 10% [of business] is out of state,” Tsirulnikov explained, “but the majority is local.” Infinite moved to its present location two years ago, not long after he and his partner sold a second company, a cell phone business they started in 1996. “We’re located in a neighborhood where people are driving $100,000-and-up cars, but a lot are also driving $30,000 cars. I created the website to show that we have everything…whether you’re looking for a Mercedes, a BMW or a Nissan.”
Originally from Russia, Tsirulnikov found opportunity in Brooklyn soon after his arrival in the U.S.
“I worked at Nobody Beats The Wiz [a chain of electronic stores in the Northeast from 1977 to 2003] when it was a private company,” he recalled. “I was running a Flatbush store here in Brooklyn when I was 22. My partner was working across the street. One day we said ‘Let’s go and open a cell phone store,’ because everything was changing at the time. We opened our first store in Sheepshead Bay and we were very successful. And we succeeded until we sold it in 2011.”
As time passed, Tsirulnikov began assisting clients with car buying as well. “We always liked cars,” he said, “and I was helping people to get them and being referred to different dealers. Then I decided to do it on my own.”
According to U.S. Census data, 1.4 million households in the City out of 3 million total own a car. Ownership percentage is lowest in Manhattan (23%) followed by Brooklyn (44%) and the Bronx (46%). Queens sports a 64% ownership clip, while Staten Island rings in at a stunning 84%. Staying vital in a market with higher vehicle ownership rates than many other areas of the city makes innovation a necessity, Tsirulnikov said.
“Right now, competition is huge. When I opened up, I was probably the third or fourth company in New York that was doing auto leasing business like I do. Now, it’s hundreds of them.” Tsirulnikov regards Infinite’s digital showroom as a brand signature, inviting clients to customize and compare models without having to leave home.
Though not representative of all transactional timeframes, a customer recently reported buying “An Altima SV; on Wednesday I dropped my credit application, told him what color I want, and on Friday I got the car with plates.” A Yelp user described having been “quoted a price [on the first day],resulting in my signing the lease a day later.”
2017 vehicles available for lease run the gamut from fourdoor mid-sized commuters like the Volkswagen Passat ($209 per month, based on $22,440 MSRP) and Honda Accord ($219 per month, $22,355) to commercial vans like the Ford Transit-Connect ($22,900), and on to luxury models such as the Lincoln Continental ($44,560), Jaguar XF ($47,450), and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class ($95,650). SUVs range from the Jeep Compass ($19,695) to the Land Rover Range-Rover-Evoque ($50,475) and up to the new Maserati Levante ($72,000). There are even dreamier models, such as the Dodge Viper ($87,895). The last of its venerable line, the Viper is powered by a 645-horsepower, 8.4-liter V-10, and rockets from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds.
With all vehicle options, the buying experience, Tsirulnikov explained, is all about completeness of information and a nearvisceral experience.
“The only thing they can’t do is touch the doors…touch the steering wheel,” he said with a smile. “Everything else you can see…each and every angle of the car, like you’re sitting in it. Press a button to request a quote and we respond quickly, and delivery to the house takes from 10 to 15 minutes. That’s it.”
In a world where achieving nearly any service virtually is an increasing standard, Tsirulnikov hopes to distance Infinite from the competition by eliminating what he sees as a service model that has been outflanked by customers’ expectations. “We’re trying to do as much as we can to make it easier for everybody. That’s my goal,” he said.
Infinite Auto Leasing
1518 Avenue Z / 718.769.2886 / infiniteleasing.com