Monday afternoon a single solitary tiny yellow Chevy Aveo sat alone and seemingly forlorn in the vast parking lot of the former home of the Currie Chevrolet car dealership located at the corner of Roosevelt Road and Desplaines Avenue. That’s because all of the rest of the cars for sale at Currie Chevrolet had been moved five blocks west to the new home of Currie Chevrolet at 8401 W. Roosevelt in the former home of Currie Motors.
The owners of the dealership rebuilt the former showroom of what had been Currie Motors and Monday workmen were still putting the finishing touches on the new showroom even as salesmen were lined up outside walking customers through the inventory.
Currie Chevrolet came into being when the Currie group bought Gleason Chevy from the big national firm AutoNation in 2007. Jerry Gleason had owned Gleason Chevrolet for many years before selling to Auto Nation.
Maureen Joyce, a former stepdaughter to Jerry Gleason, owns the land on the northwest corner of Roosevelt and Desplaines. She and Currie Group could not reach a deal to extend the lease. Currie sought a substantial reduction in the rent it was paying.
“We tried to negotiate with the landlord,” said Steven Jankelow, the South African born vice president of Currie Group, which is actually based in Great Britain. “We had an option to renew, but she was not interested in negotiating with us.”
Given the hard times auto dealers have gone through since the fall of 2008 Jankelow agreed that his company was looking for a notable reduction in rent.
Joyce refused to make major concessions on the rent and said that the reduction Currie sought was just too much.
“They were looking for a humongous rent reduction,” said Joyce who also owns a Ford dealership in the South Loop.
Neither Joyce nor Jankelow said what rent Currie had been paying.
Last fall Currie lost its Chrysler franchise when Chrysler terminated franchise agreements with 789 dealers across the country. That meant the former home of Currie Motors became vacant. Jankelow said that when Chrysler went bankrupt and restructured with help from the federal government Chrysler terminated all franchise agreements with stand alone Chrysler dealers like the one his company had owned since 1982.
Currie also owns a Ford dealership in south suburban Frankfort as well as well as four dealerships in Great Britain.
It was an easy decision to move the Chevrolet dealership from its prime corner location five blocks west to old Currie Motors home.
“We didn’t own that property there,” said Jack Bell, general manager of Currie Chevrolet. “We did own the property here.”
Jankelow made the same point.
“We’re happy to pay ourselves rent rather than pay someone else,” Jankelow said. “We’ve got, for the most part, a brand new facility.”
It took almost six months to rebuild the showroom and make other improvements to the old home of Currie Motors. Currie and the village government entered into a business retention agreement that allows Currie to retain some portion of taxes collected by the dealership as a way to subsidize the firm’s rebuilding expenses.
Jankelow and Bell said that while the market is still tough, business has picked up noticeably in the last few months.
Joyce said Monday that she doesn’t know what she will do with the property at Roosevelt and Desplaines.
“At this particular time I’m kind of weighing my options of, you know, selling it or leasing it or putting another car dealer in it,” Joyce said. “Just seeing what meshes; what all jells together.”