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Norwich Subaru Dealer Plans Move to Former Lanes and Games Bowling Alley

  • Sales manager Tom Brouillet listens to salesman Armel Mends-Cole talk about the car his client would like to buy at The Car Store in Norwich, Vt., on March, 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Sales manager Tom Brouillet listens to salesman Armel Mends-Cole talk about the car his client would like to buy at The Car Store in Norwich, Vt., on March, 10, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carmen Hardy, of Corinth, Vt., puts her dog Tuffy in her car before taking a test drive at The Car Store in Norwich, Vt., on March, 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Carmen Hardy, of Corinth, Vt., puts her dog Tuffy in her car before taking a test drive at The Car Store in Norwich, Vt., on March, 10, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sales manager Tom Brouillet listens to salesman Armel Mends-Cole talk about the car his client would like to buy at The Car Store in Norwich, Vt., on March, 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Carmen Hardy, of Corinth, Vt., puts her dog Tuffy in her car before taking a test drive at The Car Store in Norwich, Vt., on March, 10, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

White River Junction — The owner of The Car Store said he hopes to move the dealership from Route 5 South in Norwich to the former Upper Valley Lanes and Games building off Sykes Mountain Avenue during the next 12 months.

The Car Store, a Subaru dealer, has signed a purchase and sales agreement with Valley Land Corp. for the 45,000-square-foot bowling alley building and some additional land.

If the town approves the project, the plan is to move the dealership after the structure has been remodeled, said Richard MacLeay, the owner and president of The Car Store.

“We’re very excited about the move. After we own the property, the plan is to re-purpose (the) existing building, which will take some time, and relocate the dealership there.

“We’ll finally have the room we need, and we’ll be able to do a lot more than we can at our current site,” he said.

Until the redevelopment of the bowling alley site progresses, MacLeay said, he won’t start planning for how the Norwich property will be used. “We don’t know what we’re going to do right now. There are a lot of possibilities.”

The plan for The Car Store follows the purchase of 22 nearby acres behind White River Toyota by that dealership’s owner, The Heritage Automotive Group of South Burlington, Vt. Earlier this month, Heritage President David Machavern said the company bought the land, which sold for $885,000, for future expansion. He said he had no immediate plans for the property.

The Car Store was founded in 1950 as Southworth’s Garage on Elm Street in Norwich by James Southworth. In the 1960s, the company moved to its present location and became a Chrysler and Plymouth dealership. Over the years, other lines of cars were added, and in 1983, Southworth sold the dealership to Charles Ffolliott, who renamed it The Car Store, the company’s website says.

MacLeay joined the company in 1975, and later became a partner. He became the sole owner in 2010 and started remodeling the facility shortly after that.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Boston automotive dealership magnate Ernie Boch Jr. isn’t an owner of The Car Store.

“He owns Subaru of New England, the factory distributorship of Subaru vehicles, but he doesn’t own any of The Car Store,” MacLeay said.

It is difficult to pin down a timetable for the move of The Car Store, but MacLeay said he hoped to close on the property in May or June and that construction would start soon after.

“If everything goes well, it could be next spring,” MacLeay said.

The sale is contingent on getting town approval for subdividing an adjacent parcel and adding 2.24 acres to the 4.72-acre building site. Hearings on application are scheduled for March 19 before the Zoning Board and March 24 before the Planning Board.

If the sale goes through, there will be just over 64 acres of vacant land remaining in the property assembled by the late Frank M. Gilman during the 1950s.

That parcel has commercial-industrial zoning, highway exposure and easy access to interstates 89 and 91.

That property is for sale for almost $1.5 million, said Cheryl Brush, who is the listing agent with Moseley Associates.

Although the exact purchase price has not been made public, the asking price for the bowling alley property was almost $1.3 million.

According to the plans filed with the Hartford Planning and Zoning Department, The Car Store plans to spend $1.5 million more remodeling the existing building to include space for retail sales of new and used vehicles, a 29-bay vehicle repair area, a four-bay quick lube and tire service area, a car wash, a parts delivery and receiving area and customer reception and waiting areas. The lot will have 139 spaces for customer parking and inventory.

“We’re really squeezed for room where we are,” MacLeay said. “We don’t have enough parking even for customers. We’ll be able to do so much more than we can now because we’re so restricted by size.”

Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.