Bottom Line: White River Hyundai site to become used-car lot

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 12/7/2019 10:32:56 PM

The nearly empty lot of cars at White River Hyundai on Sykes Mountain Avenue in White River Junction has had people wondering what’s up with the auto dealership.

Now we know.

Owner Rick MacLeay had been mum on the subject but last week disclosed to me that he has sold the business to the McGee Family of Dealerships, which plans to lease the lot from MacLeay and convert it into a used car lot.

To be named McGee Family Used Cars, the Massachusetts-based dealership group is targeting a January opening with an inventory of between 60 to 100 pre-owned vehicles of all makes and models on the lot, said Jason Quenneville, who’s in charge of the transition.

Quenneville joined McGee as general manager and part-owner of both the new pre-owned car business and McGee’s Claremont Toyota dealership a few months ago from Heritage Automotive Group’s White River Toyota dealership, where he had been GM for the past five years.

While there, Toyota was so impressed with Quenneville’s sales figures that it selected the White River dealership as one of only seven in the country to pilot the automaker’s new digital and online sales platform, SmartPath.

Quenneville said McGee has a 12-month lease with an option to buy the property (the adjacent Gateway Motors Ford dealership building and lot also is listed for sale for $6.2 million).

Asked what led McGee to open a used — as opposed to new — vehicle dealership in a corridor that is now the locus of the Upper Valley car market, Quenneville explained that “with a Honda store, the Jeep store, the Subaru store, a Toyota store, a Chevrolet store (all on Sykes Mountain Avenue), having a used car facility there makes a lot of sense to me.”

He promised McGee Family Used Cars would be a “transparent and honest business to give customers quality used vehicles that we can stand behind.”

With the exit of MacLeay, who has been selling cars in the Upper Valley since the early 1970s and is the former owner of the Car Store Subaru franchise in Norwich, that leaves Johanna Cicotte’s Volvo Volkswagen of Lebanon, as the sole car dealership in the Hartford-Lebanon area still under local ownership.

All the other area’s longtime dealers — Kurt Gerrish of Gerrish Honda, Tom Thayer of Flanders & Patch Ford, brothers Allen and Charlie Hall of Gateway Motors, Peter Mans of Subaru of Claremont, and brothers Rob and Rick Devalk of Claremont Toyota — have either retired or sold their dealerships in recent years as online car sales and regional group owners have made it tough for standalone franchises to compete.

MacLeay, who acquired the Hyundai dealership from Gateway Motors in 2017, said he “will continue to assist” Hyundai customers in finding providers to perform repairs using Hyundai parts. Service appointments can be made by calling 802-478-0700 weekdays during business hours or by emailing Jennifer McAllister at jennifer@wrjauto.com.

MacLeay said he anticipates a “third party other than McGee” will eventually take over the rights to sell and service Hyundai vehicles in the Upper Valley, but he didn’t say when that might happen. Any new Hyundai franchise owner must be approved by Hyundai Motors America.

Hyundai Motors America did not respond to an email for comment.

Abby’s Closet shuts door

Embarrassed I missed this but important to note: Abby’s Closet, the cherished resale and consignment store for children’s, maternity and women’s clothing that was saved from closing at the eleventh hour when it secured a new space in the Staples shopping plaza in 2018, closed permanently a few months ago.

Owner Katie Chase, who originally opened Abby’s Closet on Miracle Mile in 2007 before moving her store to Interchange Drive in West Lebanon in 2011, posted on the store’s Facebook page that she was forced to close her shop permanently after 14 months in the new location because of “adverse business, local & online competition.”

“I am walking away with my head held high and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for me,” Chase wrote. “I’m sure I will see some of you around the Upper Valley.”

Chase had lost her Interchange Drive lease when the building was sold to new owners and the drama of securing a new location played out on Facebook when Chase posted videos of her excitedly announcing the news that the Johnson family, which owns Staples plaza, had stepped up and offered lease terms that her business could afford.

Chase’s store was appreciated by women and expectant mothers looking for bargains on everything from maternity clothes to toys for their kids. Abby’s Closet — named after Chase’s then-infant daughter — operated on a unique business model: People who donated their clothing to the store received a credit, which they could apply to purchases at the store. Store income was generated through the cash sales of store apparel and items.

Chase could not be reached for comment, and a representative for the Johnson family did not respond to an email for comment.

Correction

Maybe it’s my eyes: A few weeks ago in a “People in Business” column I incorrectly wrote the name of the optometrist practice White River Family Eyecare. I regret the error (and lucky for readers they just sent me a notice for my annual checkup). 

I want to know your business! Get it? Contact me at jlippman@vnews.com.




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