December 29, 2013

Kellogg expansion shifting east-side car dealerships

Next fall Davis-Moore Auto Group will move its Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Fiat dealerships farther east, leaving Davis-Moore Lincoln as the last new car dealership to occupy a mile-long stretch of east Kellogg on the south side between Oliver and Woodlawn.

Next fall Davis-Moore Auto Group will move its Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Fiat dealerships farther east, leaving Davis-Moore Lincoln as the last new car dealership to occupy a mile-long stretch of east Kellogg on the south side between Oliver and Woodlawn.

Even the Lincoln dealership may not remain there for long, said Davis-Moore president Dawson Grimsley.

“We’ve got something going on with Lincoln,” he said. “It’s the last piece of the puzzle.”

The pending Davis-Moore move represents a shift of what was informally known by some east-side Wichitans as dealers row – the length of the south side of Kellogg from Oliver east to Rock Road that for a long time used to be the concentration of new car dealers.

It’s a shift that’s been underway since about 2008, and it’s being driven, some dealers said, by the expansion of east Kellogg, which resulted in a freeway that they said made their lots less visible because of the relative elevations of the road and the dealerships. Roadway construction, they added, also hampered their business.

But there are other factors at work as well.

In the past five years, Davis-Moore moved its Mazda and Nissan dealerships out of dealership row and about three miles east. Scholfield Hyundai moved its east-side location from the south side of Kellogg between Woodlawn and Rock to Central and Greenwich last year. This year, Scholfield relocated its Buick GMC store from near the southwest corner of Rock and Kellogg to the southwest corner of 13th and Greenwich. Mike Steven Auto Group also sold its Kia dealership to Ford dealer Les Eck, who this fall opened a new store and lot for Kia on Kellogg just west of Tyler Road, about 11 miles from its previous spot at Kellogg and Woodlawn.

Grimsley, of Davis-Moore, said there were a number of reasons for his dealership moves.

The primary reason, he said, was that the buildings he vacated or will move from were all leased, and his company was unable to purchase them from Norma Davis, widow of the late Grant Davis, co-founder of Davis-Moore.

A close second was the Kellogg expansion. When the expanded highway was moved below ground level, “our visibility (at Chrysler Dodge Jeep) basically went away,” he said. “You’ve got to have visibility.”

Even with Davis-Moore Chrysler and Fiat’s move to the former Scholfield Buick GMC site near Kellogg and Rock, those dealerships won’t be seen by passers-by on the freeway portion of Kellogg. But, Grimsley said, their position near the major intersection of Kellogg and Rock will make them a lot more noticeable than in their previous locations, at 6205 and 5927 E. Kellogg, between Edgemoor and Woodlawn.

“That Schofield spot is going to be phenomenal, a lot of visibility,” Grimsley said.

And the dealerships will be in newer, more energy-efficient buildings.

“It was past time” to be operating out of more “green” facilities, he added.

Scott Hatchett, managing partner of Scholfield Buick GMC, said working out of a cramped, nearly 40-year-old building with a non-air conditioned service area was one of the main reasons his dealership made its move northeast.

So, too, was the experience of dealing with the construction of the Kellogg expansion.

“The biggest thing that really drew us over here was not having to worry about what Kellogg was going to do in the next 10 to 15 years,” he said. “We’re good to go until I retire.”

He said during construction of Kellogg, it was difficult for his customers to get to and from the dealership and “it made business challenging.”

“We opted to get away from it,” Hatchett said.

Hatchett’s Buick GMC store is now sort of an island. The next closest dealership is the Hyundai store at Central and Greenwich. It relocated there in 2011 in the former Saturn of Wichita location for double the building space and acreage that the Hyundai store had when it was next to Buick GMC.

Hatchett said even though Buick GMC is no longer on Kellogg, it is in proximity to K-96 highway. And soon, it will have company when Scholfield Automobile Dealerships moves its Wichita Luxury Collection dealerships — Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, to start — to new buildings going up at the northwest corner of 13th and Greenwich.

Hatchett said the new Buick GMC location has proven to be a “less stressful” place to get to for his customers.

“It’s pretty easy to get to us from almost every direction,” he said.

Despite the departure of Scholfield and the relocation of most of Davis-Moore’s dealerships, several other new car dealerships remain along the stretch of east Kellogg between Woodlawn and Rock: Rusty Eck Ford, Eddy’s Toyota, Scholfield Honda and Mike Steven Mitsubishi.

Roger Scholfield, president of Scholfield Honda, said he’s staying put even though the Kellogg expansion did “put a hitch in my business for a couple of years.”

The dealership has been at 7017 E. Kellogg since 1985. He joined it in 1991 when it was on two acres.

Today, the Honda dealership stretches across eight acres. Since joining the dealership and later becoming its president, Scholfield has expanded the Honda store by acquiring neighboring buildings, including some houses to the south.

“At this point, I’m very happy with where we’re at,” he said, adding that the dealership is the highest volume dealership in the state.

And, he said, staying on Kellogg has not affected the dealership’s business overall.

“With a high volume Honda store, a high volume Toyota store and a high volume Ford store, there’s still a lot of traffic, still a lot of people coming to this area,” Scholfield said.

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