A penchant for bartering lands car dealership on TV

MIDDLEBURY — For years G. Stone Motors patriarch, founder and President Gardner Stone has proudly proclaimed, “We take anything in trade” when it comes to making a deal with a customer for a new or used vehicle. As such, the business off Route 7 South in Middlebury has sealed deals with items ranging from cowboy boots to freshly baked pies.
The business’s sometimes zany bartering system will soon be witnessed nationwide, as part of a new TV show to be broadcast on cable television’s GSN (formerly Game Show Network). The GMC and Ford dealership will be the subject of at least eight episodes of a TV show called “Family Trade” that will follow Gardner, his son Todd and daughter Darcy as they negotiate unique deals with customers.
“We want to have fun with it,” Todd Stone, vice president of G. Stone Motors, said on Tuesday. “And if we get everyone behind it, it could be a good plug for the business, Middlebury and Vermont.”
It was around a year ago that Todd Stone received a voice mail message from a television executive named Eli Frankel. He is a representative from Lionsgate Television Group, a company that produces and distributes film and television programs. Todd called back, and Frankel said someone had contacted him advising that G. Stone Motors and its bartering system would make good fodder for a reality TV show. Frankel asked if the Stones would be interested in having a Lionsgate camera crew come up and see what G. Stone Motors was all about.
They agreed.
So some Lionsgate folks came up and shot about a 15-minute clip of various G. Stone transactions over the course of several days. Lionsgate shopped the clip and show idea to several cable networks, including the History Channel and GSN.
GSN liked what it saw and ordered a pilot show. So Lionsgate sent another crew over to take footage of more G. Stone bartering transactions over a two-week period.
Some of those featured transactions, according to Darcy Stone, included a deal for a used vehicle in exchange for a wedding dress, a cook-top stove, cash and another used vehicle. Another deal for a trailer included six pigs.
“That was probably the most fun,” said Darcy Stone, general manager of G. Stone Commercial Group.
Lionsgate refined the pilot, which was shown to two audiences in New York City. Those audiences gave the show great reviews, which prompted GSN to commit to a run of eight episodes.
“(GSN) gets five or six show ideas a day, and for them to pick ours is pretty good,” Todd Stone said.
Todd Stone said his dad agreed to do the show with the proviso that it be an accurate representation of what goes on at the business.
“He made a big point of making this a real show, not a fake show,” Todd Stone said.
And G. Stone doesn’t need to stretch the truth when it comes to its bartering. Some potential customers show up with some novel and crazy stuff, such as old tractors, paintings or even an elk, in hopes of securing their dream vehicle.
“It’s nothing new to us,” Darcy Stone said of the bartering.
The Stones acknowledged it has been tough to get used to the filming process.
“They are right in your face; they have a microphone on you all the time,” Todd Stone said.
“It’s something we’ll have to get used to,” Darcy Stone said. “Once we do it on a more regular basis, we will be able to work the kinks out.”
Filming was scheduled to begin in earnest this Saturday, Sept. 1, at an open house at the business from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Footage for the eight episodes will be compiled during the next five or six weeks — a timeframe that will coincide with Vermont’s foliage season, Todd Stone noted. Customers will, of course, be able to decline participation in the show. It should be noted that the Stones will receive fairly modest compensation for their starring roles on “Family Trade.” The sale of vehicles will remain the Stones’ bread and butter — which probably isn’t out of the question in a bartering deal.
“We’ll see how far the show takes us,” Darcy Stone said. “We hope this not only promotes our two stores, but the community and the state.”

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