Kenai men take wheel at Chevy dealership

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2001

A pair of Kenai men have bought Juneau's Chevrolet dealership.

The Kenai businessmen bought the 13-year-old Lewis Motors from Harley Lewis and Chuck Wescott and changed its name to Capital Chevrolet.

Bob Favretto and managing partner Rob Skinner closed the deal Friday after about nine months of negotiations. The selling price was not disclosed.

Favretto owns the Kenai Chrysler Center where Skinner was sales manager.

The Kenai dealership, when it was bought five years ago, was very similar to Lewis Motors, Favretto said. The Kenai dealership did $7 million to $8 million a year in sales when it was bought. Last year, the business did about $21 million in sales, he said.

Capital Chevrolet will be run by Skinner, who plans to revamp the business, hiring more sales people and spreading the word that buying locally is competitive with going Outside, he said. He helped Favretto's dealership do much the same thing in Kenai and they managed to double employment and triple payroll in five years, Skinner said.

"It was much the same as here," he said.

"(Capital Chevrolet) has got tremendous growth opportunity," Favretto said.

Skinner said he hopes to increase business much like the Kenai store.

"We'll do it through community involvement," he said.

Trying to get people to buy locally is nothing new for the local car dealerships.

"That's not a revolutionary concept," said John Holmquist, owner of Evergreen Ford. It's an ongoing battle because some people always want to shop Outside, he said.

Holmquist said he welcomes the owners and believes competition will make everybody better.

Lewis and Wescott started Lewis Motors in 1988 as a Chevy and Geo dealership. They later bought the local Subaru dealership.

In 1998, they sold the Subaru dealership to Mendenhall Auto Center after Chevy wanted its dealerships to sell only General Motors products, including Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile, which Lewis Motors sold, Wescott said.

"(The Subaru franchise) has been great fun for us," said Steve Allwine, co-owner of Mendenhall Auto.

Allwine said he and Favretto are friends.

"I like him - that doesn't mean I have to support him," he said jokingly of the competition.

The Lewis Motors sale gives Wescott some long-needed time off, he said. Wescott said he plans to do some fishing, traveling and maybe a spring bear hunt before looking for work.

"I'm retired for at least the next three or four months," he said.

Lewis kept his Ketchikan Chevy-Buick-Subaru dealership and is busy running that operation. Wescott does not have an ownership interest in the Ketchikan dealership.

At Capital Chevrolet, Skinner said he has his work cut out for him, not only in reorganizing the business, but in finding a home he can afford for himself, his wife and their four daughters, ages 7 years to 7 months.

Mike Hinman can be reached at mhinman@juneauempire.com.



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