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Family dealer expands with small-town appeal

While others grumble about how big-box stores have begun to take over their small towns, Richard Spurr has used the increased traffic caused by a new Wal-Mart and a new Lowe’s to his advantage.
In the year or so since the stores opened on Route 31 in the town of Sweden, business at the nearby Spurr Dealerships Inc. has increased significantly, Spurr said, enabling the car dealership to expand to include Subaru.
“We’ve had the best last five months in the past three years,” said Spurr, dealer principal. “We feel that Brockport is definitely a growing area.”
Spurr also recently purchased the building that houses the new Subaru franchise and is in the initial stages of renovating it and the dealership’s existing facility next door. The Chevrolet building will feature two entrances, one specifically for Chevrolet and one for Buick, Pontiac and GMC. The smaller of the two buildings will continue to house the Subaru franchise.
He did not disclose financial aspects of the renovations.
Spurr employs roughly 70 people and last year posted some $35 million in revenues. The dealership-which sells Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet, GMC and Subaru-sells some 1,500 vehicles annually, which would rank the firm around 10th among local dealers. Spurr Dealerships did not participate in the most recent Rochester Business Journal survey of auto dealerships. Spurr began his automotive career some four decades ago when he purchased Clarkson Motors, a used-car operation in Brockport. In the 1980s he moved his family to Erie, Pa., where he operated his first new-car dealership, a General Motors store.
In 1989 Spurr sold the Erie dealership and returned to the Rochester area. In 2000 he purchased Mulkin Chevrolet in Brockport. Spurr’s son Randall is the dealership’s general manager, while son Daniel is the used-car manager. Daughter, Shannon, is involved with the Subaru franchise.
“It’s really in the blood,” Spurr said. “Both of my sons have had no other choice but to be in this business. My daughter said it’s like gasoline in our blood. It’s all we really know and do.”
Spurr is the westernmost Chevrolet dealer in Monroe County and the fact that Brockport is a small town has worked to its advantage, Spurr said.
“In this business you have to stay competitive with everybody,” he said.
Spurr’s marketing campaign reflects that idea and that works well for the company, Rochester Automobile Dealers Association Inc. president Bradley McAreavy said.
“I think it’s important to differentiate yourself,” McAreavy said. “They definitely market themselves as more of an outskirts-area kind of dealer.”
In recent years the local automotive market-mirroring national trends-has taken a hit in terms of stalled sales, especially the domestic franchises. RADA reported that import car sales outpaced domestic car sales for the first time in Monroe County last year.
For some dealerships, particularly larger or long-established stores, that might not pose a problem. But with several manufacturers trying to consolidate dealer operations-Chevrolet among them-some area dealers may begin to feel some pressure. “If you can be that guy down the road when Chevrolet, instead of having 10 or 11 dealers has six or seven (locally), you’re going to be in good shape,” McAreavy said. “If you’re well-positioned and you’re a good operator and you can weather that storm, you’re going to do very well. The survivors of that down cycle are going to do extremely well.”
vspicer@rbj.net / 585-546-8303

04/18/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal


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