After sitting empty for four years, the auto dealership building on the corner of Hwy. 47 and Cty. K is now bustling with activity. At the center of it all is Mark Klewer, the energetic new general manager of what will soon be Rhinelander Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram.
Klewer comes to the Rhinelander area after managing an auto dealership in Eau Claire for the last several years. He said the opportunity to move to the Northwoods and open his own dealership was one he and his family couldn’t pass up. Klewer and his wife, Tammra, have a 16 year old son and a 19 year old daughter.
“The group that owns this dealer owns many others in Wisconsin and Illinois (including Rhinelander Honda) and they have a great reputation,” said Klewer. “They contacted me and actually recruited me to come here, which felt great.”
While there hasn’t been a Chrysler/Dodge dealer in Rhinelander since the Bembenek Chrysler dealer closed its doors on Hwy. 17 a couple of years ago, Klewer said the market is prime for the model to make a comeback in Rhinelander.
“All you have to do is drive around this town and look at how many people are driving Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products,” he said. “They’re very popular here, but there’s no dealership locally that sells them. That’s what makes this venture so exciting.”
Klewer has a lot of work ahead of him, though, before his targeted opening date of Monday, May 14. On Wednesday painters and other contractors were scrambling all over the building, which has sat vacant since the Rick Karcz Ford dealership closed in 2008. As he ran through his growing checklist of chores he needed to accomplish before the opening, Klewer said he wasn’t feeling apprehensive or overwhelmed.
“Right now we’re taking it a day at a time,” said Klewer, glancing at his wife, Tammra, who’s been at his side the last several weeks helping with the renovations. “I think it’s been at least a week since we slept.”
One aspect of the area that’s struck Klewer in the few weeks he’s been here is the sense of community. He said he and Tammra are already being recognized and several of the restaurants they’ve eaten at, and everyone they’ve talked with is going out of their way to make the couple feel at home.
“We’ve basically only been in town since April 23, and we already feel like we belong,” said Klewer. “The people are very inviting, and when they find out about our project, everyone’s been excited. That’s gotten us fired up about being here.”
It’s that sense of community that Klewer believes will make him a good fit in Rhinelander. He intends to run his dealership with those same ideals in mind.
“This business is going to be a family for both our staff and out customers,” said Klewer. “I’m going to be out on the floor, and I encourage anyone, whether they are interested in a new car or not, to stop by and say hello to us.”
The items on Klewer’s short list include hiring a few more staff, getting computers and phones installed and stocking the parts department. It was Tammra who pointed out the obvious thing still missing-vehicles to sell.
“We’re working on that,” said Klewer. “We have 55 new vehicles on order, and we hope that they’ll start arriving soon. We want to hit the ground running.” Klewer would like to offer 80 to 85 new and used vehicles on his lot at a given time. He said he intends to keep a close eye on his inventory, turning over stock frequently.
“I don’t want a vehicle to sit on our lot for more than 45 days,” he said. “If we have something for a month and a half and it hasn’t received interest, it’ll go to the auction and I’ll replace it with something that will get interest. We’ll be turning over our stock every day.
Klewer’s Chrysler service center will hit the market from the get-go by offering $9.95 oil changes and other various specials. Klewer’s goal the first few months is simply going to be to let people know he’s here and ready to help. He said visibility won’t be a problem.
“This is a great location that’s on a high-traffic road,” said Klewer. “We’ve had dozens of people that have just dropped by over the last couple weeks because they’ve seen us working and were wondering what was going on. I love that. My goal is to be open and inviting.”
Editor’s note: Klewer has several job openings still available. He intends to start business with a staff of 20, and expand that to 25-27 employees within six months. For more information, or to apply for a job at Rhinelander Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, call (715) 420-1555.
Editor Craig Mandli is available at email@example.com.