Chrysler dealership anticipates fall grand opening

by Lauren Odomirok

GASTONIA – Jack Salzman and his wife, Robin Smith, are excited to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Cornelius this month.

Gastonia Chrysler Dodge Ram Jeep will celebrate with a grand opening event in the fall. (Courtesy of Theresa Wengel)

But even bigger plans are on the horizon now that they’ve set their sights southwest of Mountain Island Lake and purchased the former McKenney Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Gastonia on May 14. Renaming the location Gastonia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, the couple anticipates a fall grand opening ceremony after a general contractor completes some renovations to the property.

In addition to new vehicles, the dealership will also offer an assortment of pre-owned cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs.

“We’ve been looking to expand for about two years, but we’d never been able to agree on the price for the sale,” Salzman told Mountain Island Monitor.

The Cornelius dealership sells about 250 units a month, and Salzman expects the new Gastonia shop to sell 150 units a month. Right now, it’s set to employ 45 people, but that number should grow to 55.

“The economy is still growing and housing sector improvement will continue to help us,” he said. “If gas prices remain calm, I hope the business will grow by 10 percent or more in these next two years.”

He’s seen recent spikes in sales of Jeep Grand Cherokees – about 40 a month – after they were redesigned last year, saying Mercedes and BMW customers now find them more attractive.

Gaston Chamber of Commerce President John Kimbrell said the dealership’s previous co-owner, Ray McKenny will still maintain his other dealerships in Gastonia, like McKenny-Salinas

“I’m not familiar with the new owners, but I’m looking forward to meeting them,” Kimbrell said. “We’re glad they’re making an investment here and want to help them in any way we can.”

Salzman hopes to attract some buyers from Charlotte, and in the digital age, he has customers from Texas and Florida looking for specific models.

“If you run a business correctly, you get to give back to the community,” he said. “Robin and I like paying it forward. We enjoy watching staff move up through the ranks, too, and become managers.”

Committed to giving back to others, the couple is involved with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Dove House and Friends of the Animals. In the last 10 years, they’ve donated more than $1 million to local charities.

Even though Salzman’s tenure as a board member for the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce was up in November 2012, Chamber President Bill Russell told the Monitor he remains an ex-officio member because “he has been such a tremendous asset to our community.”

Salzman is also heavily involved with Big Day at the Lake, an annual event run by volunteers that offers members of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte an opportunity to enjoy boating, tubing and swimming on Lake Norman.

“He’s always out there each summer flipping those hamburgers and hotdogs, working that grill,” Russell said.

Need a new set of wheels?

Visit the Gastonia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership at 2339 E. Franklin Blvd.

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