Archive for Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dealership changes go into overdrive

Nissan Subaru lot takes new owners; Honda location will move

December 21, 2006

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With Dale Martens Nissan Subaru operating under new ownership this week, now the real work begins.

The owners of what is now Bossier Nissan Subaru, 2112 W. 29th Terrace, won't be in place for long. They have until May 31 to move next door, into a vacant auto showroom and auto sales lot at 2300 W. 29th Terrace, where they have a two-year lease and an option for two more.

The shift will make room for Jack Ellena Honda to move its dealership into the current Nissan Subaru location, a high-visibility corner site that actually was the place where Honda entered the Lawrence market, back in 1973.

And once Honda completes its move and embarks on what could be a $1 million renovation, the Bossier folks will be well into an even bigger undertaking: Finding a brand-new location in town to sell cars, whether it's on East 23rd Street or Kansas Highway 10 in southeast Lawrence, or along Sixth Street and U.S. Highway 40 in northwest Lawrence.

But first things first: The four partners in Bossier - all connected to auto dealers in Texas, primarily in Bryan-College Station, home to Texas A&M; University - simply want to hire more employees, get in some more vehicles and start driving sales and service in a college community they're certain will be good for them.

"We like the energy and activity of college towns," said Jim Webb, the partnership's managing partner, who now lives in Lawrence and serves as general manager. "A university market is different from a normal one, and we're very comfortable with that - and actually like it."

Bossier retained eight of the 10 employees who had remained at Dale Martens leading up to the sale, which closed Monday. Bossier already has added six employees and plans to have the staff up to 30 soon.

Webb acknowledges that finding a new location in town will be a challenge, but a welcome one. The partnership wants enough room - likely five to seven acres - to build separate showrooms for Nissan and Subaru.

It's a prospect that John Ellena, owner of Jack Ellena Honda, doesn't envy.

"They're fully aware of what they're up against in this town," said Ellena, whose family owns the existing Nissan Subaru site, and who owns the building and lot where the Bossier operation is moving this spring. "They'll need to get something rezoned, and that isn't easy."

Ellena's Honda operation, meanwhile, will be making its move down the street in early June. The shift from 2957 Four Wheel Drive will allow the service department to expand by 50 percent, and call for hiring another two technicians and possibly another service adviser.

Soon to follow: A renovation to give the place a new look and feel, costing up to $1 million, Ellena said.

"We've been treading water here until that building became available," said Ellena, whose father, Jack, used the corner lot for his Jack Ellena Buick Oldsmobile GMC Honda dealership in the 1970s. "It's a great location, and it's like coming home."

Dale Martens, who put the changes in motion by offering his dealerships for sale during the past year, said he was happy to leave the operation in the hands of the Bossier partners: Larry Bossier, Scott Bossier, Randy Pretzer and Webb.

"I think it will be a great fit," Martens said. "I don't think there could be a better fit for Lawrence."

Moving parts

Dale Martens Subaru this week became Bossier Nissan Subaru, but more changes are on the way. A rundown:

¢ Bossier has until May 31 to relocate next door, to the former City Enterprises dealership on West 29th Terrace. Bossier then will have up to four years to find a place to build two new showrooms and car lots, likely either in southeast or northwest Lawrence.

¢ Jack Ellena Honda plans to occupy the former Dale Martens location in early June. An up-to-$1 million renovation will follow. The existing Honda location on Four Wheel Drive could be sold, leased or used for other Ellena interests, owner John Ellena says.

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