GAYLORD — For the first time in more than 50 years, the Wagar name will be out of business in Gaylord.
Tom Wagar confirmed that he had sold the Buick GMC dealership his family has operated for more than half a century to Gene Skiba of Jim Wernig Chevrolet. The two dealers are located opposite each other on South Otsego Avenue.
“We moved to Gaylord (on) November 17, 1963. (We) are from Wyandotte, my mother and father and five sons Wagar. At that time we sold Pontiac Buick GMC and Rambler and lived behind a dealer on First Street,” she says.
“We bought (the company) from Jack and Ernestine Allen (and) it’s called Gochas Garage. I first started working when I was 11 pushing brooms for 25 cents an hour so I could buy a slot car set from the monkey ward (Montgomery Ward & Co.),” recalls Wagar.
He mentioned several reasons for selling the dealer.
“I’m 66, no Wagar in the wings to take over, the car business isn’t what it used to be, estate planning, greed, and to drop a dealer on my two boys and have them sell them for half price, I’ll roll in my grave. Gene is very generous and a pleasure to deal with, he will turn a shop into a vending machine in no time. I enjoy running it like my dad Ford and mom Connie did back in the 60s. I will miss talking to customers as they wait for their car most of the time fixed, good chat. I want to thank everyone who came into contact with the Wagar family during our 58 year journey,” Wagar said.
Skiba said he would retain all current employees and had added a few more since the sale concluded three weeks ago.
“We will maintain the current facility, and will make a major upgrade this spring, adding a new, latest design to the Buick GMC line that will be represented here at the Gaylord,” said Skiba. “We will not be consolidating the current Chevrolet store, nor will the GMC Buick store (as) each retain their own look, feel and design.”
Skiba said the Jim Wernig Chevrolet store was bought in January 1977 by the late James H. Wernig Jr., who was actively involved in the business until his death in 2019. Wernig was involved in GM’s auto business for more than 50 years, starting out after graduating from Michigan State. University in the Almont and Romeo areas before buying the current Jim Wernig Chevrolet.
“We were originally located in downtown Gaylord (at) the location of the current Huntington Bank building on Main Street,” Skiba said.
“I have been involved since 1978, when I joined Mr. Wernig as a sales associate, and finally the current president, dealership operator for the Chevrolet store on Old 27 South. We moved to our current location in February 1977,” said Skiba.
Linda R. Wernig is also the owner, taking over from her late husband, James H. Wernig Jr. The new store also has additional owners, Andrew J. Krajniak, currently executive manager at Jim Wernig Chevrolet and Lucas Shepherd, currently executive manager at Alpena Buick GMC, Skiba added.
“We felt that because of our store location, which is right in the middle of the state, on I-75, and across the northeastern side of the state from Gaylord to Mackinaw, we can serve our customer base very well,” Skiba said.
GM’s current supply of vehicles is still very limited, Skiba said.
“We have some shortcomings, both in the Chevrolet and Buick GMC brands. We are seeing more inventory arriving every day, but some customers are already waiting for delivery from the factory. We will see some relief from the chip shortage as early as (a) the second quarter of 2022, if not sooner and will return to full effect in the third quarter of 2022,” Skiba said.
Skiba said both dealers had signed up for GM’s electric vehicle (EV) initiative.
“We actually signed up for an EV and we are currently planning and adjusting all locations for service sales, and demonstration of electric vehicles in early 2022. We have made significant investments in all three of our dealerships to date,” added Skiba.