EASTHAMPTON — Cernak Buick in Easthampton, a third-generation family business, will close, Jennifer Cernak said Monday.
The Cernak family is not yet ready to announce details and a timeline, she said. They are talking with many people, she said — including with General Motors — about how best to move forward and about how things will unfold.
“As you can imagine its a very sensitive topic for me and for my family and customers,” she said.
The late Samuel Cernak opened the dealership in 1940 and started selling Buicks in 1948. The family pointed with pride to the business as one of the oldest Buick dealers in the United States.
Cernak survived the 2009 General Motors Great Recession purge of smaller dealerships. At the time, General Motors used its federal bankruptcy process to terminate agreements with dealers. Cernak also survived for more than a decade with a business model increasingly rare in the auto motive world: a one-brand, one-location, family-owned business.
The 1.26-acre property is on the busy Route 10 corridor between fast-growing Easthampton and Northampton. It’s across the street from the Tasty Top site where Easthampton Advanced Research Park has proposed a marijuana laboratory research, and retail sales complex.
Kenneth Cernak, the dealership’s president and Jennifer’s father, was a vocal critic of a previous plan by Stop & Shop to build a supermarket on the large parcel across from the dealership, which is also home to the Easthampton Golf driving range. He dropped a lawsuit over the proposal after losing an initial ruling, clearing the way for the project — but Stop & Shop later dropped its plans.
At the time, Kenneth Cernak said he feared traffic to the supermarket would impede access to the dealership.
Burke Chevrolet in Northampton is now the next-closest General Motors dealership to Easthampton. Beyond that is Central Chevrolet in West Springfield, Bob Pion Buick-GMC in Chicopee and Balise Chevrolet Buick GMC in Springfield.
Just north of the Cernak Buick property on Route 10, the former Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile property will be the site of the new River Valley Co-op supermarket.
Robert O’Koniewski, executive vice president of the Massachusetts State Auto Dealers Association, said only selling Buicks as new cars put Cernak at a disadvantage. He’d been told that the Cernak family tried to get a GMC truck franchise when the territory became available after Burke in Northampton bought the Classic Chevrolet franchise in Amherst and moved Chevrolet to Northampton.
“It’s very hard to make it as a single-point, single-nameplate dealership when that brand isn’t the biggest seller in the family of nameplates,” O’Koniewski said. “The GM plan of starting someone off as a Chevrolet customer, then when you made more money moving to sporty Pontiacs then Oldsmobiles and Buicks and if you really made it, Cadillac, that marketing plan really isn’t true anymore.”
He said General Motors focuses Buick now away from sedans — a switch for a brand built on the Roadmaster and the LeSabre — and on to newer SUVs and crossover.
“Buick is really retreating from what made it Buick,” he said. “They aren’t going to use the word ‘Buick’ on the cars anymore and just go with the three shields.”
The state has 427 car dealerships today, a slight rebound from the worst days of the recession when there were 402. But there were nearly 500 before the Great Recession.