The head of Cleveland's auto-dealers group has put his stores up for sale, saying declining sales have hurt his ability to stay in business.
Pat Norris said the Norris Auto Mall in Medina, a dealership in Norwalk and two dealerships in Burbank, Ohio, are all for sale. The dealerships sell Chevrolet, Chrysler, Pontiac, Cadillac, Dodge, GMC, Jeep, Hyundai and Buick vehicles. The Gene Norris dealerships in Middleburg Heights are not part of Pat Norris' business.
The dealership in Norwalk at Milan and Gallup avenues was cleaned out over the weekend. Cars still remain in the lot. One sales associate was in the dealership Thursday afternoon "tying up loose ends," though the lot remains open. He said there are people interested in buying the dealership and expects something to happen within the next week. He said he hopes whoever takes over the dealership will rehire all of the former employees.
The closure took Norwalk Mayor Sue Lesch by surprise.
"Not a clue. The day they closed the doors I got a couple of calls," Lesch said. "I never got a call her from them. It was a surprise to me. I had just purchased a car there a couple of months ago. I was just talking to Al (her husband) about some service work needed on my car and getting an appointment."
Lesch has no official numbers, but "I had heard maybe 25 to 30 (people worked at the dealership)
"My biggest concern is for the employees. To have then come to work and find the doors closed ... it's so unfair."
Lesch said if the city had some notice, it would have gotten Job and Family Services in to help out the employees. "It's certainly a shame for the community and the employees when they don't get a fair notice." Lesch said.
"This has been a pretty tough market in Northeast Ohio," Norris told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
Norris' main dealership on Ohio 18 in Medina was open Monday after being closed last Friday.
Norris told the Plain Dealer he is looking at several options, including the outright sale of all dealerships, the sale of one or two locations or staying on as part of a partnership.
He said he is talking to potential buyers and hopes to have a deal in place soon. He added that he has no plans for filing bankruptcy and can keep the dealerships running for the time being.
Over the past year, he said, he has laid off workers and looked for other ways to cut costs.
Norris said he is at a loss to explain why sales are falling for the cars that he sells mostly Detroit Big Three products.
"We have the best product I've seen in years," Norris said. "But people vote with their wallets, and I haven't been able to capture as much of the market as I needed to."