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March 28, 2007

BUSINESS: Keyser and Skill Buick forced to close

About a year ago, John “Butch” Skill Jr. was watching the demolition of a vacant building next to his Delaware Street car dealership.

He then spruced up the lot — formerly Delaware Lanes — and used it to expand the business. On April 9, the whole operation will be shut down.

“I was hoping to retire out here, but that’s not going to happen,” said Skill, who co-owns the Keyser Buick dealership with Randy Helf. “I didn’t expect (the closure), no.”

Skill is working out a closure deal with General Motors, which owns Buick. He said terms of the deal are confidential. But the closure appears to be at the behest of General Motors, which has embarked on a massive consolidation project in an attempt to compete with foreign car companies like Toyota and Nissan.

“There’s been a 3 to 4 percent shrinking of GM dealerships nationally,” said Dr. Nallan Suresh, chairman of the Department of Operations, Management and Strategy at the University at Buffalo School of Management. “They’re pressuring dealerships to consolidate, sell and relocate their franchises.

“In some cases they are bluntly forcing dealerships to move to another location.”

Ford dealers, who have found themselves in a similar situation as Buick, have received incentives ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 to sell their franchises, Suresh said.

John McDonald, a spokesman for General Motors, had no comment on the closure.

Both Skill and Helf will now concentrate on the Cadillac dealership they own on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda, Skill said. The Delaware Street dealership’s 30 employees will be left without jobs, though Skill expressed hope the majority of them would be employed by the time the dealership closes.

“We’ve been here since 1987, when by dad bought it,” he said. “I became the dealer in October of 2000. We expanded to try and make a go of it but it didn’t work out.”

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