Auto dealership closes

Eateries being discussed retail hoped for in future

March 28, 2008 

A local car dealership on the 1200 block of Sixth Street has went out of business, clearing the way for a possible retail section to be built along the city's entrance to downtown.

Los Baños Motors closed its doors March 20.

According to the dealership's leadership the business failed financially from the moment it was purchased from its former owner Brad Bowers.

"We lost $2 million in this rendez vous," Los Baños Motors Manager Jesse Sangera said.

He said when owner Paul Simpson bought the business in 2006 he assumed $800,000 in debt from Bowers, including $400,000 owed to the flooring company providing the automobiles, $200,000 owed to County Bank and another $200,000 loan used for personal matters. Sangera said an additional $1.2 million was spent on keeping the business operating.

Sangera said the debt left the dealership cash poor.

Because of bad credit the dealership also did not get a new line of cars from its flooring company for a year and a half, Sangera said.

"The product is great. The location is great. To lose out because of other people's mess,it hurts," he said.

About 20 employees were put out of work due to the dealership closing. Layoffs, however,lead to only about five people who were still working at the business the day it ceased operating.

Los Baños Motors was a Chrysler dealership and, Sangera said, it is up to the company to decide if it wants to pursue another car lot venture in town.

Doug Balatti, who owns the Los Baños Motors building and the land it sits on with his family, said he will re-evaluate his options after the dealership officially vacates the premises.

"Right now we're in a state of uncertainty, waiting to get legal possession of the building back," Balatti said.

He is willing to hear almost all offers. Balatti said the next tenant could be another car dealership or some type of retail business.

There is one use he said he does not want at the location. Balatti said Councilman Tom Faria has approached him with the idea of using the building for a place to have bowling alley. Balatti declined.

"We know as much about bowling as we do Chinese food. We're not interested," he said.

Balatti does want the area to attract people.

He said a plan is in the works for his family to sell land it owns directly to the west of Sixth Street and Highway 152 to Walt Ballard.

The owner of a Baskin Robbins franchise on the 300 block of Pacheco Boulevard, Ballard wants to move his ice cream shop to the land he owns at the intersection of Highway 152 and Sixth Street. The extra land he plans to purchase from the Balatti family would give Ballard 20,000 square feet at the intersection, enough room for him to build the Togo's franchise he wants to bring to Los Baños.

Not wanting to get residents hopes up or appear to be circumventing the city's authority, Ballard downplayed the talk of the sandwich shop coming to town.

"We got the property. We're hoping," Ballard said. "It's really too early in the process. We haven't even submitted anything to planning yet."

Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or cpride@losbanosenterprise.com

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