The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why The Capistrano Dispatch is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.

Now Open

Rabin Godfrey, USA country manager for Grupo Autofin Mexico, and Ahmad Yassin, general manager of Imperio Nissan San Juan Capistrano. Photo: Allison Jarrell
Rabin Godfrey, USA country manager for Grupo Autofin Mexico, and Ahmad Yassin, general manager of Imperio Nissan San Juan Capistrano. Photo: Allison Jarrell

Imperio Nissan of San Juan Capistrano

33633 Camino Capistrano

Imperio KIA of San Juan Capistrano
33611 Camino Capistrano

By Allison Jarrell

When family-owned company Grupo Autofin Mexico began looking to expand to the U.S., they saw a lot of potential in the Southern California auto market.

With interest in both the Nissan and KIA brands, Rabin Godfrey, USA country manager for Grupo Autofin Mexico, said buying the two dealerships in San Juan Capistrano last year was a natural choice. Godfrey represents the group’s investments and interests in the U.S., particularly in California, and said their first hurdle was to put together an excellent team. Today, they employ 83 people between the two San Juan dealerships.

“Our strategy is not based on the pricing of a car, but in customer satisfaction,” Godfrey said. “In order to achieve this goal, you can only do it with good people. Fortunately, we are very confident that we have them. We are very proud of our employees, and we want them to feel happy and comfortable working for us, because if you don’t have happy people working for you, how can you be friendly with your customers?”

Imperio took ownership of Nissan at the end of June 2014 and KIA at the end of August 2014. They opened two more stores in Irvine and Garden Grove, and in December 2014 they celebrated their official ribbon cutting in San Juan Capistrano. Back in Mexico, the company owns more than 50 dealerships.

Godfrey said Grupo Autofin also has a brand in the hotel industry in Mexico, so they understand the importance of greeting customers, making them feel comfortable and paying attention to them.

“The key part of this business is people,” he said.

In the future, Godfrey said Grupo Autofin will hopefully continue to grow. Their focus is mainly on Orange County, but branching out to Los Angeles, San Diego or even other states along the U.S.-Mexico border isn’t out of the question.

However, their first and foremost goal is to contribute to a vibrant local community and attain success in San Juan Capistrano. In some cases, that will mean reaching customers who may have had an unpleasant experience in the past, which Godfrey said can be especially challenging in such a tight-knit community.

“We found that when we arrived here, unfortunately, past customers of the former store operators were, and maybe still are, frustrated and disappointed because of their previous experiences,” Godfrey said. “Give us a second opportunity to prove that we are different. We represent very good products, and we know how to make this business work.”


We Olive & Wine Bar

We Olive owner Kimberly Middleton. By Allison Jarrell
We Olive owner Kimberly Middleton. By Allison Jarrell

31760 Camino Capistrano Suite B, San Juan Capistrano

By Allison Jarrell

Just steps away from Mission San Juan Capistrano sits one of San Juan’s newest businesses, We Olive & Wine Bar. Owner Kimberly Middleton opened the gourmet shop in early December, and it has since been filled with an assortment of California artisanal products—from extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to olive tapenade and locally-crafted wines.

An Illinois native, Middleton’s desire to support small artisan growers stems largely from her involvement in her family’s farm, located in a rural community outside of Chicago.

“I love everything We Olive brand stands for—healthy living and supporting small artisan growers and producers,” Middleton said. “We take pride in knowing who we’re getting our products from.”

While We Olive does carry some imports from Italy and a few decorative items from Spain, Middleton said about 80 to 90 percent of their inventory consists of local, California-based products. All of their extra virgin olive oil is certified by the California Olive Oil Council, which means there are no chemicals used in processing the oil, and all of the oils are cold-pressed and must go through a strict sensory evaluation.

Middleton said they also carry infused olive oils featuring ingredients like fresh oils from Meyer lemons, jalapenos and basil. Other products offered range from body and skin care products to kitchen accessories and ceramics. Their wine bar features unique, limited-production wines as well as a small bites menu that incorporates the gourmet foods they sell.

With the exception of a few stores across the country, We Olive is mainly a statewide retailer, with shops up and down California’s coast. Middleton began her appreciation for all things olive as a loyal customer in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, and after learning about franchise options, she knew it was time to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a business.

“I wanted to open my own business after grad school, but I had to get up the guts to do it,” Middleton recalled. “Essentially, I decided to marry personal passions with my professional skills in marketing and branding, and it all came together.”

When Middleton and her husband moved to San Juan Capistrano, she knew she wanted to own a business that was not only centrally located, but also helped to support the history of San Juan and the success of other downtown businesses. Thus far, part of her strategy to support the downtown has included special partnerships and promotions benefitting the Mission San Juan Capistrano Preservation Society.

“I really want to bring more traffic to the downtown,” Middleton said. “I want to give back to San Juan Capistrano. The mission is a beautiful piece of history, and we need to maintain that as much as we possibly can.”

For more information on We Olive & Wine Bar, visit

Trustworthy, accurate and reliable local news stories are more important now than ever. Support our newsroom by making a contribution and becoming a subscribing member today.

About The Author Capo Dispatch