A longtime auto dealership with local ties nearly a half-century old will soon have a new out-of-town owner.
Bellingham Chrysler Center, which opened in 1961 and has been owned by the Vermeulen family of Whatcom County ever since, will soon be sold to auto dealer Greg Rairdon. Rairdon, who owns Rairdon’s Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Monroe and Smokey Point, said he recently reached an agreement to acquire the assets of the Bellingham business. No price was disclosed.
Mark Vermeulen, who owns the Bellingham Chrysler Center with his brother, Jay, said the deal should be completed by approximately April 1. Mark Vermeulen said Rairdon’s plans include both an acquisition of the dealership and the land.
“We’ve been in the business for so many years, and it’s time to make a change,” said Vermeulen, who has been working at the dealership since the early 1970s after his father, Casey, established the company about a decade earlier. The business, which has approximately 55 employees, has no plans to alter its operations or its product lines, Vermeulen said.
“The employees will remain here,” Vermeulen said. “There shouldn’t be any changes.”
How the move will impact the local auto scene is unknown. According to information in The Bellingham Business Journal 2007 Book of Lists, Bellingham Chrysler was the fifth-largest dealership in Bellingham, based on new cars sold in 2005.
“As far as the impact (on the local dealership scene), I think that remains to be seen,” said Rick Wilson, owner of Wilson Motors, which ranked third in Bellingham among dealerships in cars sold. “It’s been around a long time, and I’m probably just like anybody else: I hate to see a local company become non-local.”
However, Wilson said, many dealerships in town have non-local owners, so the arrangement is relatively common. Vermeulen said the idea of selling the business has been under consideration for the past couple of years, and Rairdon’s offer seemed to be a good fit for what the company hoped to find in a new owner.
“I never really listed any pros and cons (of selling the business), other than that we wanted someone who was established and that we know has a good record in the automobile business, so the transition wouldn’t have any big surprises for anybody,” Vermeulen said. “We extend our thanks to all of our customers throughout the years. We’ve met a lot of nice people.”
Haggen adds to Fairhaven holdings
Haggen added another parcel of land to its Fairhaven portfolio this month.
Through its development arm, Briar Development Co., Haggen owners Donald and Richard Haggen purchased the undeveloped property on the northeast corner of 12th Street and Mill Avenue for $1 million on March 5.
“It was a pretty expensive property, but that’s what Fairhaven property owners are asking for,” said David Moody, real estate agent for the seller, Bill Trunkey.
The company has no plans for the 10,000-square-foot lot at this time, but will likely build on it in the future, Haggen spokesperson Becky Skaggs said.
The acquisition adds another site to Haggen’s growing collection of properties in Fairhaven. Since purchasing the former Fairhaven Red Apple Market and lot on 12th Street in May 2004, which is now the Haggen Fairhaven Market, the company proceeded to buy almost the entire block behind it — a combination of undeveloped land and residences next to the Lucia Douglas Gallery, according to Whatcom County Assessor’s office records.
Skaggs said Haggen would like to eventually expand the grocery store into that lot. In January, Haggen announced it would add a pharmacy to the front of the store, which opened in February.
Skaggs said it is not uncommon for the company to purchase property for future development. For example, the company owns several pieces of undeveloped land in Lynden.
City of Bellingham planner Jackie Lynch said the company has not applied for any permits for the site or scheduled any neighborhood meetings. The property is in Fairhaven’s design review core with a 35-foot height limit and is zoned for neighborhood commercial, she said.
It was most recently home to the Wool Station, which is now located on 11th Street. Moody said the building was constructed in 1931 and used as a gas station until 1976, when Trunkey bought the site.
Last year, Trunkey demolished the building and the property went through an environmental cleanup before Briar Development purchased it.