New, bigger site is auto dealer's dream come true

August 08, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Warren L. Wheeler has been able to envision for years what he wanted his auto dealership to look like. Now he can see, touch and walk around in it.

Wheeler Chrysler-Plymouth opened for business in its new location on Railroad Avenue in Westminster last Monday, leaving behind a building on East Main Street it had occupied for 11 years.

"We had really just outgrown that facility," Mr. Wheeler said. "But we still wanted to stay in town."

The Railroad Avenue building has 18,000 square feet of space, about three times as much as the dealership's former quarters at 279 E. Main St., he said.

Thomas K. Ferguson, chairman of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., said he didn't think the move would have a negative effect on the downtown area.

"Yes, now there is another vacant building on Main Street, but there was a vacant building on Railroad Avenue for years," Mr. Ferguson said. "The encouraging thing is that we have a long-established business in Westminster that chose to stay in Westminster, not [to move] out on [Route] 140."

Mr. Wheeler said he wanted accessibility and visibility, which the new site atop a hill near the Route 27-Route 140 interchange will provide. But he said he wanted to remain in Westminster to continue a "down home" approach to doing business.

The owner said the renovated building "gives us plenty of [room for] growth for the future."

The move allowed Wheeler Chrysler-Plymouth to triple the size of its service department and to expand its parts department to carry a much larger inventory than was possible in the former location. Mr. Wheeler added one salesperson, bringing the sales staff to five. The dealership has 25 employees.

Mr. Wheeler reached a sale agreement with the building's former owner in December, received approval from the city Zoning Appeals Board in January for a business use in an area zoned industrial, and started renovating in February.

The Railroad Avenue building, built about 1950, first housed an Acme supermarket. Its last tenant was TSC, a tractor and farm supplies store that moved to Leidy Road about 10 years ago.

Mr. Wheeler said he had been thinking for several years about buying the vacant building. He sold the building at 279 E. Main St. four years ago, but leased it while he negotiated to buy the former TSC store.

He declined to say how much he spent to buy and to renovate the building. The State Department of Assessments and Taxation values the property at $320,300.

Mr. Wheeler said renovations were extensive. "The only things we used that were existing were the four walls and the floor."

The now-vacant building at 279 E. Main will go on the market for sale or lease, said Allan K. Zepp, its owner and a Westminster used car dealer. The building housed a dealership called Western Motors when Mr. Wheeler bought it.

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