The Toyota dealership in Baxter could have new ownership this fall.
The Twin Cities-based Walser Automotive Group has a purchase agreement to buy the now-closed Denny Hecker Toyota dealership on Highway 371 North. The business plan is being developed and has to be run past Toyota for final approval.
Doug Sprinthall, Walser director of new vehicle operations, was recently in the lakes area to check out the property and the company interviewed about 15 former Hecker employees.
Sprinthall said an anticipated closing date is in mid- to late-October, but that isn't a firm date at this time.
Walser's majority shareholders plan to run the Baxter dealership in partnership with Bob Ebert of Maple Grove, who is in charge of Walser's service operations in its 10 stores. Ebert is planning to relocate here and will own part of the store and operate it.
The Toyota store here would be the third store Walser has opened this year. Sprinthall said Walser Automotive is doing all right in a tough economic environment and he credits the good business to its business model.
Walser Automotive has a "one-price selling" philosophy. The dealership prices the vehicles at the dollar amount it wants to sell them with discounts figured in up front. They don't negotiate. Sprinthall said that method is easier for staff and provides a better shopping experience for customers as many people don't like to negotiate for the vehicle. This way they are assured they aren't leaving money on the table.
Sprinthall said they were so impressed with the former employees that he would have taken them all by bus back to work in the metro if that were possible.
Touring the Toyota site in Baxter, Walser representatives found a pristine setting inside and out. They found out former employees were stopping by on their own time to keep it looking that way.
"How do you find people who do things like that?" Sprinthall said. "I can't think I've ever heard of anything like that."
They expect to hire about 25 sales and service staff members here to start.
The new enterprise will be called Lake Country Toyota. An original idea to call it Brainerd Toyota was scrapped after it appears Baxter city officials had a few concerns about the name choice.
Walser Automotive is in the seven-county metro area and this will be their first outstate dealership, Sprinthall said. And he said physically this two-year-old facility with Toyota's most modern design will be the nicest one Walser's owns.
Sprinthall said they will take time to get to know the market here although they have a familiarity with the lakes area. One of the owners, Andrew Walser, has a cabin on Gull Lake.
Wausau Paper announced it is consolidating its Specialty Products and Printing and Writing businesses into one unit named Wausau Paper Mills as of Jan. 1, 2010.
The consolidation is expected to reduce administrative overhead, broaden market access and improve manufacturing flexibility in its three production facilities, including the Brainerd mill, Wausau reported.
Wausau Paper Mills will be led by Henry C. Newell, senior vice president, who is overseeing the consolidation of the two units.
"Consolidation of our Specialty Products and Printing and Writing businesses into a single strategic operating unit further builds on the success of restructuring initiatives completed over the last two years," Thomas Howatt, president and CEO, said in a news release. "In addition to providing direct administrative cost reductions of more than $2 million per year, the new structure will enhance market access and create a business unit with the flexibility to effectively serve both mature and growth-oriented markets."
The Economic Policy Institute, based in Washington D.C., recently reported there are now six workers for every job opening.
Lakewood Health System, based in Staples, is building a clinic south of Browerville.
Unique Keepsakes Gifts opened in the Westgate Mall near Herberger's in space formerly occupied by X-tended Play. The business includes fair trade items imported from India, Nepal and Tibet and a didgeridoo, an aboriginal Australian musical instrument, along with Christmas ornaments and handmade products from lakes area artists. The store is owned by Leo Desmond.
Cemstone, with a batch plant and supply store on County Road 25 just off Highway 210 near the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, is finding its footing and marking an anniversary next month. Cemstone worked on an expanded ready-mix concrete facility near Brainerd about two years ago and finished the facility this spring, said Kevin Fischer, sale manager of northern division. Customers come from contractors and homeowners.
Cemstone describes its Brainerd area facility as being among its most advanced and environmentally friendly. Operations include integral liquid colored concrete, pervious concrete, masonry products and the supply store with building materials. Decorative concrete in more than 100 colors is offered for driveways and sidewalks.
The family-owned company was founded in 1927 and it operates more than 50 ready-mix concrete plants in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Fischer said Cemstone is community oriented.
Fischer said about 10 years ago the company bought a ready-mix plant in Pequot Lakes. The Pequot Lakes facility is used seasonally. Cemstone staff, with about 20 in Brainerd, are shared between the Pequot plant and one in Isle and Aitkin.
While the recession has been difficult, Fischer said Cemstone has focused on quality and plans to be here for the long term.
"We feel we are fighting through it better than most," Fischer said.
Cemstone has worked on major recent projects, with the 35W bridge, the new Twins stadium and the new Gophers stadium and the wastewater treatment plant here.
Cemstone plans an open house Oct. 1 with a pervious concrete demonstration at 1 p.m.
Soulstis Med Spa, Baxter, is hosting a grand opening Oct. 8 at 15167 Edgewood Dr. in the Grizzly Center in larger and freshly remodeled space. Soulstis Med Spa plans a move into the new space at the end of September.
RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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