BELFAST, Maine — The 16-foot by 70-foot mobile home that sits at the corner of Route 3 and Route 1 on the Dutch car dealership lot has puzzled more than a few people traveling through this busy intersection.
Owner Greg Dutch has a ready explanation: “It’s our ‘mobile sales unit,’ “ he said Friday, chuckling at the euphemism. “We put the entire sales department in there.”
The sales crew isn’t being punished. Rather, the staff relocation is temporary as the 86-year-old dealership undergoes a renovation to remain in compliance with standards set by General Motors.
And the banner that reads “Demolition Sale” shouldn’t be understood as the result of some catastrophic act of nature.
Periodically, manufacturers ask dealers to spruce up their buildings, Dutch, 55, explained.
“They want every dealer to look similar,” he said. The goal is to help customers be able to recognize a GM dealership, “wherever you are in the country.”
In 1999, GM pushed dealers to complete the “Image 2000” makeover, and Dutch complied. That retrofit cost $250,000, he said. Dutch won’t reveal the budget, but acknowledges the current work is costing “a lot more.” GM helps with some of the cost, he said.
“It’s a scary thing for me,” Dutch admitted, given the tight economy. Northeast Equipment, a contracting firm based in Waldo, is doing the work.
The specifications are exacting, he explained, such as certain sized floor tiles, LED lights and furniture, even down to the size of the grid that holds the ceiling tiles.
“When it’s all done, it will look beautiful,” he said.
One key part of the concept is transparency. Floor to ceiling glass will be featured in the front showroom so people driving by will be able to see the new cars. The sales staff’s desks in the back part of the showroom also will be visible through glass partitions, which Dutch said can’t be blocked by so much as a piece of paper.
The service department will have two drive-in bays, also behind transparent doors. The service crew similarly will be visible to customers behind glass walls.
The project has taken over a year to plan and get GM’s approval, Dutch said. The work got underway late last month and is expected to wrapped up by March.
The Dutch dealership traces its roots to Greg Dutch’s grandfather, Alfred Dutch, who opened the Drisko-Dutch dealership on High Street just south of the Main Street intersection in 1926. Alfred’s sons Dryden and Bryant moved the dealership to the Route 1/ Route 3 intersection in 1961.
Greg and his brother Tim, Bryant’s sons, took the reins, and ten years ago, Greg took over sole management.
The family approach remains, despite the larger dealership chains that have begun to dominate the Maine market.
Dutch points out that customers can — and often do — walk into his office to talk with him.
“It’s a multi-million dollar business and you can talk to the owner,” he said.
“We have people who drive a considerable distance because of that,” Dutch said. “We take that family thing and we keep it throughout” the business, he said. He also credits his employees — many who have worked for years for the company — for its ongoing success.
“I have excellent employees that make me look great,” Dutch said.