Car dealer moves into high-profile Sixth Street location

It was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

That’s how Lonnie Blackburn described the decision to expand his Academy Cars business and move it from south Lawrence to 1527 W. Sixth St., the former home of the Custom Highline auto dealership. Custom Highline went out of business a year ago and is no longer an entity.

Blackburn’s used car dealership opens Wednesday at the new location after 19 years at 3000 Four Wheel Drive. It comes at a time when new car auto dealers across the country are having problems attracting customers.

“Used cars are selling,” Blackburn said.

“We’re not experiencing any of the problems with loans that we hear about,” said Tom Langas, Academy financial officer.

The new location will give the business more visibility, and it is large enough to hold the dealership’s entire inventory, which averages 50-plus cars, Blackburn said. He also will add a service department that will serve the community and his customers.

“We’ll add four to five more employees,” Blackburn said, noting that Academy currently has six employees.

State transportation statistics show that the new site on Sixth Street is visible to an average of 26,000 vehicles passing by daily, while traffic at the old site averages 500 per day, Blackburn said.

Blackburn closed on the purchase March 20 after first looking at the building Feb. 19, he said.

Custom Highline, which sold high-end luxury cars, closed in January 2008 because of debt problems with its creditors. Blackburn worked with two of the creditors, Central National Bank and National Bank, to reach a deal on the site.

“We’ve been wanting to move for seven years to a better site,” Blackburn said. “We had looked at several other options and never dreamed we’d really be in a position where we could move.”