Batavia dealership closing after 81 years in business

December 30, 2011 (BATAVIA, Ill.)

Avenue Motor Sales in Batavia has closed its doors for good.

John Clark is Avenue Motor Sales' third-generation owner. His grandfather opened the Chevy dealership in downtown Batavia in 1930. It moved to the Randall Road location in 1987.

The dealership's nearly empty lot used to be jam packed with hundreds of vehicles and almost 50 employees. Now the desks are empty, and Clark is one of the last people on the now quiet showroom floor.

"I had my sons working here. We were on the way to a fourth generation. After the recession, Obama cut the dealers. Twelve hundred were terminated," said Clark.

Clark believes he could have battled the recession but he didn't survive the cuts when GM was forced to cut all of those dealerships after the bailout.

"So we went from 300-400 cars to 70-80. We tried to make a go of it but our overhead was too high with eight acres," he said.

On Friday, some loyal customers stopped by to wish Clark the best.

"Being a sentimental person...I am really gonna miss them," said customer Dave Sperry.

Another newer customer came to buy one of the last a few vehicles on the lot Friday.

"Maybe it would have been better if I would have known it was the last day," said Customer Michael Raitano, customer.

Clark's scrapbook has a 1939 invoice where a car sold for about $350. As the years progressed, Avenue Motor Sales became a staple in the community, helping to fund and run a local drivers education program and donating to organizations.

Despite the tears and high emotions, Clark says he's trying to stay positive as he shifts gears and looks forward to the next chapter in his life.

"Sad, very sad but you got to be positive. What am I going to do when I grow up?" he said.

Clark isn't sure what he's going to do next. Clark says much of his retirement money was invested in the business so he still needs to work. The good news: he owns the dealership building and is trying to rent it out. He's also an accountant and has 30 years of sales experience.

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