The new owners of the 6.5-acre Geweke Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership at 1255 Beckman Road plan to bring new automobiles back to the site, which has been vacant since Feb. 2009.
Kimberly Mullen, a partner at the new dealership along with her husband Bryan Smith and father Ken Mullen, said it was great to bring a dealership back to Lodi.
Her father is a lifelong resident and longtime physician in Lodi, and Smith has more than 20 years experience in the automobile sales industry. Kimberly Mullen said her husband’s career has taken them throughout California and the Midwest, as well as the Seattle and Portland areas.
The couple moved back to Lodi in 2011 to be near family, and Kimberly Mullen said owning his own dealership has always been her husband’s dream. She added that bringing another dealership back to the city was also important to her father.
“We thought (owning our own dealership) was going to be a 10-year plan, but it actually turned out to be a one-year plan,” she said. “We’re just excited to bring back a Chrysler dealership. It’s important because we’re not only bringing back jobs — we’re bringing business back to Lodi as well.”
Kimberly Mullen is hoping to have the dealership, to be named Lodi Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, open and operational before Thanksgiving. She said the goal is to have at least 30 full-time employees, as well as about 100 new cars on site. There will also be a number of pre-owned vehicles available for purchase as well, she said.
Mullen added that parent company Chrysler, which once had dealerships focused on a single brand under its umbrella, is now shying away from that business model. She said more Chrysler dealerships are moving toward a multiple-brand approach, such as having Dodge and Jeep vehicles under one roof.
“We couldn’t be more excited about this year’s Chrysler line-up,” she said. “They’re putting out a lot of products with a lot of great features, and we’re thrilled to be a part of their team.”
Kimberly Mullen said the city of Lodi and the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce have been very helpful in getting the endeavor off the ground, as well as reaching out to encourage Chrysler to come back. The entire process of returning to the Beckman Road site began in January, she said.
“We’re very excited about not having an empty building over in that area anymore,” she said. “It’s been a really challenging process, but it’s great to be closing in on an opening.”
Lodi Chamber CEO Pat Patrick said the dealership will not only bring more jobs, but also create more business for other industries in the city.
He said the chamber has referred several local businesses to help the Mullen and Smith with site aesthetics such as paint and lighting.
“Jobs are what this is all about,” he said. “And this is going to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to the city.”
The Mullens and Smith said they were committed to using Lodi businesses to revitalize the main building, which includes a showroom, service bay, conference room and offices, as well as the smaller former Geweke Kia building on the site.
The latter has also been vacant for a number of years, and Kimberly Mullen said that the building will be used as office space for managers.
The layout of the 27,000-square-foot building will not change, Kimberly Mullen said. But both the interior and exterior will be repainted. The beige, now faded and dirty, will become a whitish gray.
The lighting will be redone, and new lifts will be added to the existing service bay. Kimberly Mullen said they are hoping to “go green” with the service department as well.
A dealership Smith managed in Oregon used recycled automotive oil to heat the service bay, and Kimberly Mullen said that is something they’d like to duplicate here.
The old Kia building also needs some work, as thieves removed all the copper wiring from the walls. A large hole developed in the roof, and the building was flooded during the area’s last heavy rainfall.
“We really want to focus on having local businesses doing the work on this building,” Smith said. “We’ve got a local painter coming in, we’ve got a local electrician and a local business fixing our cabinets. We love Lodi and want to give back to the city.”
He and Kimberly Mullen said partner Vince Porter and his wife share that vision as well.
Porter has more than 20 years experience in auto sales as well, and has worked with Chrysler at several sites in the Central Valley. He had also known Kimberly Mullen from a prior acquaintance.
He said Chrysler approached him with opening a new dealership at their vacant site and provided him with the perfect partners in Kimberly Mullen and Smith.
“It’s worked out very well in knowing Kimberly and meeting Bryan,” he said. “The timing for us is perfect, it’s perfect for Lodi, and it’s perfect for the market. We have a great core of people in the valley, not only in a customer base, but potential employees as well.”
Smith, a former Geweke general manager who once oversaw all the company’s operations and even helped build the shop at 1255 S. Beckman, said it feels strange returning to a building where he once worked, and where he’ll now be an owner instead of working for someone else.
“We’re just ready to move forward, and if we can make this work, our investment group would like to look at other sites to open up in the area,” he said.
Mayor Alan Nakanishi said auto dealerships are a great commodity to communities, and all cities fight to get them to open up shop because they contribute to greatly to city revenue, as sales tax makes up 8 percent of the city’s budget.
“We’re very happy they’re coming back,” he said. “Auto dealerships sell high-priced items, and that brings a lot of sales tax. And it also creates jobs for those out of work, as well as gives more work to some of our existing businesses. Everyone is going to benefit. It’s very good for Lodi.”
The previous dealership, Geweke Chrysler Jeep, closed in 2009 when a line of credit to operate daily expenses was tightened on dealerships nationwide. Geweke opened the site in 2002.