Denecker Chevrolet sold to NY auto dealership
I can vividly remember, I looked at the building with all the lights on in the nighttime, and all the showroom lights on, and I thought, ‘Wow. That’s awesome. You did it.’
— Tom Denecker
MIDDLEBURY — At the end of March or in early April, Denecker Chevrolet on Route 7 in Middlebury will have a new name — Middlebury Chevrolet — and new owners, the father-and-son team of Chris and Christopher Mackey, who operate Ford and Subaru dealerships in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., as the Mackey Auto Group.
But, according to current owner Tom Denecker, much will remain the same at the Middlebury business he bought from Jerry Shea six years ago. Denecker has signed a contract to continue managing the dealership, and plans revealed to the firm’s employees on March 4 call for them to stay on board, as well.
When he started thinking about selling his 8.5-acre dealership, Denecker said, those were the terms he sought.
“I did not have any interest in selling to a national company,” Denecker said. “I didn’t want to have that kind of a culture come to Middlebury.”
The Mackeys were vacationing in Canada late last week and were unavailable for comment.
Denecker said they were looking for one more dealership within 90 minutes of Saratoga Springs that was successful and “with a team in place … So it was pretty natural.”
The Mackeys first contacted Denecker early last fall, and they met over dinner. He learned their intentions and his aligned.
“It was just as much me interviewing them as them interviewing me,” Denecker said.
After the meal he showed them the new building that was finished in 2016, and Denecker said its layout and condition impressed them and quickly led to negotiations he described as straightforward.
“They said to me, ‘Do you really keep this place like this all the time?’” he recalled. “And I said, yeah, I like to keep this place like this all the time. It cost me a lot of money.”
Denecker described straightforward talks that included General Motors’ approval of the Mackeys’ purchase. Exact terms of the deal were not released.
“We came to terms. It was not terribly difficult to do that,” he said. “The physical property, the building, is worth a certain amount of money, and then in auto sales, they call it blue sky. It’s basically a formula of what do you sell and then there’s a multiplier for that. And then different franchises and manufacturers get different values, and Chevrolet is obviously what they call in GM the big dog, because it sells the most.”
TIME FOR CHANGES
Denecker’s decision to sell his dealership blends the personal and the financial. He said he has achieved his business goals by turning Denecker Chevrolet into the largest Chevrolet dealer by volume in Vermont.
Denecker, who will turn 66 in early April, recalled when he started his run in the area in 1992 by buying the former Miller Chevrolet on North Main Street in Vergennes. In 2008 he expanded onto Route 7 in Ferrisburgh across from Vergennes.
“I’m up on April 2nd on my 29th anniversary as a Chevrolet dealer,” he said. “And the bottom line is when I bought the dealership it was the smallest Chevrolet dealership in the state of Vermont. And now I’m the highest-volume Chevrolet dealership in the state of Vermont. So to that end I’ve achieved that goal.”
Denecker said in 2019 his dealership sold a little less than 1,000 new and used vehicles, and that 2020 is on track to meet its goal of 1,100 sold. Its service shop also gives nine mechanics all the work they can handle, he said.
“When you can be able to invite enough customers, make it attractive enough to do business with us, to me, that’s the pinnacle right there,” he said. “Then I did the right thing.”
Denecker always envisioned owning the sort of dealership he does now on the southern edge of Middlebury village, with a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 20,000-square-foot building.
“I’ve literally done what I set out to do,” he said. “Once I finished this building, I can vividly remember, I looked at the building with all the lights on in the nighttime, and all the showroom lights on, and I thought, ‘Wow. That’s awesome. You did it.’”
Denecker also said selling the business and stepping into a salaried management position is the best thing for him and especially for his wife, Susan.
“As you get older and you start to accumulate some assets, if your assets are liquid, that’s perfectly fine because it’s easy for your spouse. But if something happened to me to leave Susan with this debacle would absolutely be a travesty,” he said.
“It would not be fiscally responsible, and it would not be my wish, if I were not there to help her through, so by getting off the asset now, and getting out from underneath the mortgage and all that, it puts me in a place where I can get paid a salary, I can come to work every day, and I can do more of what I enjoy, which is talking to people. So I get my wish list all the way around.”
Denecker compared what lies ahead for him to his work history.
“I usually stay here to 10 o’clock at night, and I’m not going to have to do that anymore. The other thing is I’ve been working six days a week for 44 years,” he said. “And I’m actually going to start working five days a week. At least I say I am.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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