Saturday, December 4, 2021

Corporate dealership sold to small town owner

Former Kasson woman to operate Owatonna auto dealer

Smaller car dealerships are falling by the wayside and often replaced with corporate ownership. But a reversal of that trend is happening in Steele County as a family dealer with strong small town connections takes over a prominent dealership.

Greg and Julie House of Stewartville have bought the Walser Automotive Group’s Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac dealership in Owatonna. The couple also operates House Chevrolet in Stewartville, a dealership that has been in the House family since 1923. Greg House is the third generation of his family in the auto business. 

“We’re small town people,” said Greg House. “We like the size of the community (Owatonna) and we like the openness of the people.” 

Julie House, who grew up in the Kasson area, will operate the Owatonna dealership as general manager. The Houses have retained the staff of about 20 employees that previously worked for Walsers. She said they will be in the dealership on a day to day basis as opposed to corporate owners who rarely are on the premises.

Walser, which is primarily focused in the Twin Cities metro area with various dealerships, took over the Owatonna dealership from the Hursh family in December 2012 and built a modern facility along Interstate 35 between Owatonna and Medford in 2013. 

No major changes are planned at this time other than a heavier emphasis on community involvement.

Greg House indicated they had been looking for a while to acquire another dealership and sought out the Owatonna location. Exposure, location, the community and facility compliant are what drew them to Owatonna. 

He said it’s nice to buy a new facility so they don’t have to worry about making it compliant. 

“We hope to carry on the tradition,” Greg said. 

Walser has shifted its focus and resources on expanding in the Twin Cities and Wichita, Kan., markets. “Their vision is bigger than what they could be here,” Greg explained. 

Julie House will have a bit of a learning curve as she has previously not been involved in the car business. But the auto business isn’t totally foreign to her. She worked at the Department of Motor Vehicle in Rochester for 18 years

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