Southwest Review News
About a year ago, Jim Leonard, co-owner of Lake Elmo Fury, received the grim news that his business was part of 788 Chrysler dealerships nationwide that were set to close as part of the corporation's restructuring following bankruptcy in 2008.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
In big, bold letters on the dealership's website last week, a message exclaims that Fury won its arbitration bid against Chrysler LLC and a new Chrysler and Dodge franchise will be coming soon. Fury was one of only 13 dealerships nationwide to win arbitration.
Through the year-long arbitration process, Chrysler decided Fury fit all of the corporation's criteria to remain open and reinstated the franchise at the dealership this month.
Leonard said it's been a long and arduous process to get the dealership's franchise back, but through it all he's seen just how much his business means to Lake Elmo and surrounding communities.
"Far and away, this was the most difficult task I've had to deal with as a business owner," he said. "My family has been in the car business for 47 years, and when we lost the franchise, the car business was so far down from what it had been."
The dealership had been selling used inventory and doing non-warranty work on vehicles, but it hasn't been able to sell new vehicles or provide warranty work for customers since June 9 of last year, Leonard said.
During his time as a dealership owner, Leonard said this was the first time he'd ever had to lay employees off due to a lack of work. His dealerships in Lake Elmo and South St. Paul have been prosperous for years, and both were turning a profit when Chrysler informed him that the Lake Elmo location lost the Chrysler franchise, befuddling many.
"We were in the process of hiring people when they took our franchise," Leonard said.
From the time Leonard received the letter from Chrysler telling him it was pulling the franchise, support and encouragement has come from customers and local politicians. Leonard was even invited to a U.S. Senate hearing on his arbitration case by Sen. Amy Klobuchar last year.
During that hearing in Washington, D.C., Leonard presented a petition containing the names of over 2,000 Minnesotans who said they wanted to see the business stay open. Klobuchar and other government officials who supported Leonard and his business were among those present at a celebration Aug. 28 at the Fury dealership to commemorate the business's official reopening.
"The support that has been shown has had such a profound effect on me personally," Leonard said.