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For expansion, Carstar Collision buys abandoned Chevy dealership

Carstar Collision of Amherst has acquired the former Frontier Chevrolet site on Niagara Falls Boulevard to relocate and double its space.

DMS Enterprises of Amherst, which is registered to CarStar franchise owner David M. Snell, paid $1.85 million a few days ago to buy the abandoned dealership at 2915 Niagara Falls Boulevard from Argonaut Holdings, a subsidiary of General Motors Co.

Carstar is now at 2753 Niagara Falls Boulevard, in about 10,000 square feet of leased space. By contrast, the dealership property Snell now owns at the corner with North French Road has a 20,000 square foot building on a five-acre site.

"They're doubling the size of their current facility," said Ben Borruso, associate broker at Pyramid Brokerage Co. in Buffalo, who represented GM along with another Pyramid broker and giant New York City firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

"The facility is only 10 years old, so it's in beautiful shape. And there's a lot of land with development opportunities."

Carstar is a nationwide franchise of full-service car repair, inspections and body shop businesses. Besides the Amherst location, Snell also owns a franchise in Lancaster.

The Amherst business currently employs about 14 to 15 workers, but Snell plans to increase that to about 20 as he boosts his repair business, said Jeff Palumbo, an attorney with Damon Morey LLP who represents Snell.

"What he's hoping to do is increase his mechanical repair revenues as a result of the increase in size," Palumbo said. "It's something he's been thinking about for a while, and then the opportunity came along to purchase the property and he grabbed it."

Plans call for Snell to use the existing building with some modifications, although the work won't be extensive. There are no plans to expand the building, and Palumbo said Snell hopes to be "up and running within the next 30 days."

The property has been vacant since August 2006, when GM closed Amherst Chevrolet. The dealership had been operated by Michigan native Gale Hill from April 2004 until mid-2005, when GM took over operations from her but did not give a reason. Hill, the first African-American woman to own a GM dealership in the region, returned to Michigan.

Previously, the site had long been home to Frontier Chevrolet, operated by a different owner.

Borruso said GM had been holding onto the property for another dealership but eventually decided to liquidate some assets, listing the property with Pyramid in the fall of 2008. He said it garnered "extremely heavy interest" from automotive-related industries, retail and developers.

The Amherst Town Board in early August approved the rezoning of the property from "general business" to "motor service" to accomodate the new Carstar location but required that the business conduct additional air quality tests after it opens, in response to concerns about pollution.

The board also mandated additional rows of trees be planted as a buffer between the proposd shop and the Doodle Bugs! daycare facility behind it.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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