Bottom Line: Big move, renovation for Upper Valley auto dealership

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 11/7/2021 11:38:10 AM
Modified: 11/7/2021 11:39:11 AM

Key Auto of Portsmouth, N.H., which owns the new Chevrolet dealership in White River Junction and the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram dealership in Lebanon, has purchased the former Gateway Motors facility on Sykes Mountain Avenue in White River Junction, where it plans to relocate the Chrysler dealership from its current home across the river on Route 120.

“We’re taking all four franchises over there,” John Leonardi, president of Key Auto, said last week of relocating the Chrysler brands to White River Junction. “A brand new showroom, renovating the facility. We’re going to require more operation capacity for the service department and preparing for EVs down the line.”

He said the project, which he estimated will cost $4 million and which Key Auto is in the process of getting permits for, would begin in January with a targeted completion later in the year.

The Gateway Motors property was owned by brothers and David and Allen Hall, whose family had been longtime auto dealers before they retired and transferred the Ford franchise to St. J. Auto two years ago.

While the Halls handed over the franchise and its Ford-selling rights, they held onto the Sykes Mountain Avenue property until recently, when they sold it to Key Auto.

Leonardi declined to say how much Key paid for the property, although it had been listed most recently at $5.85 million by Lang McLaughry Commercial Real Estate, down from its initial $6.5 million ask.

He estimated the completed former Gateway Motors lot will be able to accommodate 300 new vehicles with pre-owned vehicle storage and sales handled out of the Key Chevrolet lot down the road.

“Everybody has moved to that area to operate,” Leonardi said of the concentration of dealerships in recent years along Sykes Mountain Avenue. “We want to be there, too.”

As for what will become of the Chrysler dealership on Route 120, Leonardi would say only that Key Auto was weighing “a couple things” for the site and leasing it “hopefully to somebody in the region.”

So long to SoRo’s 5 Olde Tavern and Grille

The 5 Olde Tavern and Grille in South Royalton, one of the longest continuously run restaurants in the Upper Valley, has turned off its grill jets for the final time.

Owner David (Spike) McDerment announced on Facebook with a “heavy heart” that he has closed his restaurant, known for its neighborhood conviviality and moderately priced upscale comfort food that has been a draw for residents and Vermont Law School students alike.

He did not cite a reason for closing, although McDerment related last year to the Valley News that the toll the pandemic has exacted on the business.

McDerment, a Hartford High School graduate, began working at 5 Olde Tavern in 1981 when it was located in Nugget Alley in the space now occupied by Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine in Hanover and known then as 5 Olde Nugget Alley. The South Royalton location opened in 1984.

Messages left for McDerment were not returned.

Rylee Anne’s expands

When it comes to opening a retail shop, Hanover is like the Broadway of the Upper Valley: Test run your retail concept in outlier towns first before debuting on South Main Street. 37 Central Clothiers, The J List, Farmhouse Pottery and Simon Pearce are just some of stores in Hanover that began somewhere else.

Add to the list Rylee Anne’s Boutique, a trendy women’s apparel store run by Hartford native Rylee Preston which first opened in the Powerhouse Mall in West Lebanon in 2019. Preston opened on Oct. 8 her second Rylee Anne’s store in the Hanover space formerly occupied by International DVD and Poster (renamed rpmNH and now located in the Nugget Arcade Building) below Starbucks on Lebanon Street.

“I saw the location open when I was in the area for dinner and I just thought it was really a prime location for foot traffic,” Preston said of the building at the corner of South Main Street and Lebanon owned by Kurt Schleicher, who bought it from business partner Jay Campion in 2019.

Preston said the apparel lines in her second store will be selected with an eye to appeal to the “college crowd” and will include such brands as western-style hats from Charlie One Horse and Stetson.

Opening a retail apparel store is challenging enough with so much of the business shifting online, but Preston had the added headwind of opening only a few months before the pandemic began in the winter of 2020. She said that being new and not established at that time may actually have been to her advantage, however.

“Because I wasn’t big yet helped me get through it,” said Preston, adding that business has “picked up” in recent months. “I didn’t have as much on the line.”

Contact John Lippman at

Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy