By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Previous owner plans on traveling
Marc Heitz is going on vacation. He’ll have some time now. On Wednesday, he sold his remaining car dealership to David Stanley Auto Group.
“We’re going to travel,” Heitz said.
Heitz has been in the business of selling cars since he was 19 years old. Heitz began his career selling cars while he was a student at the University of Oklahoma. He continued in the industry after graduation, working his way to becoming the owner of four dealerships representing 10 lines of vehicles. Heitz was voted the Oklahoma Auto Dealer of the Year in 2011 by the Oklahoma Automotive Dealers Association, according to a press release issued by the company Wednesday.
As part of his successful business strategy, Heitz incorporated community involvement and support into his business dealings. That strategy paid off, earning Marc Heitz Chevrolet the spot as top Chevrolet dealer in Oklahoma for the past four years.
Heitz’s grandparents were dairy farmers, and his father managed a west-side Norman grocery store for 30 years. That gave him a strong connection to the community.
Heitz said he hopes David Stanley will continue to give back to Norman, but for Heitz, it was time to move on.
“GM had asked us to change the facility in a total remodel,” Heitz said. “It had to do with incentive monies and being eligible for rewards within the company, and if you didn’t do it, you weren’t a team player.”
Heitz built the new facility at Interstate 35 and Lindsey Street during the height of the recent recession and increased sales volume when other dealers were seeing volume drop by half.
“They have a standardization program where they want all of the dealerships to look the same, and it happened after we built the new dealership,” Heitz said. “We built the dealership when GM was going through bankruptcy.”
The new facility was part of the package of success that generated increased volume while others were struggling just to make a sale, but that isn’t the whole picture, Heitz said.
Enthusiastic employees and a great community and great market made that success possible, he said.
“David Stanley is getting an incredible opportunity. It’s an incredible market, and Norman’s always supported the Chevy brand,” Heitz said.
Last year, using the skating rink at the Marc Heitz dealership, Norman residents contributed to raising nearly $32,000 to benefit the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Marc Heitz Chevrolet in Norman opened the ice rink on its property from Nov. 25, 2011, to Jan. 3, with all proceeds benefiting the Food Bank’s Food for Kids childhood hunger programs in Cleveland County. This year, proceeds from the skating rink will benefit the Norman Assistance League. The fundraiser will run through Jan. 6.
Last June, more than a thousand people showed up one Saturday at Marc Heitz Chevrolet for the second annual Battle of the Burger. Twenty community- and business-based teams participated.
The money raised at the event benefited OK Kids Korrall, an organization that provides a home for pediatric cancer patients and their families while they are receiving treatment at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, the Peggy & Charles Stephenson Cancer Center and other nearby facilities.
“The community supported us because we support them,” Heitz said. “There’s a formula for success in Norman, and it all revolves around support to the local businesses and the local charities and academics. … We hope he continues all of that stuff and that Norman continues to support the brand.”
The new dealer, Rob Stanley, said Heitz’s model of success is one his dealership will follow.
“That’s the No. 1 goal right now. Considering that Marc Heitz has had such tremendous success with his involvement with the community, that is a model we are going to learn from,” Stanley said. “I can’t think of any particular changes because they’ve always done such a good thing here. I think you’ll see increased visibility. Even more advertising and more vehicles to choose from.”
The dealerships state-of-the-art facility was completed in 2008. There is a children’s playground adjacent to the amphitheater, providing a welcoming atmosphere for families and children. During events at the amphitheater, dogs are welcome in the “barking lot,” which is the dog park area at the dealership.
“We’re so excited,” Stanley said. “We have always wanted to come to Norman but never found the right opportunity until now, and this is the perfect fit. We’re going to learn some things from Mr. Heitz that will help us and Norman in the future.”
No employees will be fired and Stanley said the dealership may even add staff.
“We have kept everybody that was possible to keep,” Stanley said. “Of course, you’re going to have some turnover, but it wasn’t our choice, it was the employees’ choice.
Todd Ritz will be the new general manager.
Stanley expects to do a grand opening community event in March.
“We wanted to wait until it was good weather,” Stanley said.
The transition will be as seamless as possible, Heitz said.
“There will be no interruption in sales, parts or service,” he said.
Heitz bought Larry Spencer Chevrolet on Main Street in Norman 12 years ago and moved to the new location four years ago.
“We owe a lot to our loyal customers over the years,” Heitz said. “With their help, we transformed this dealership into Oklahoma’s largest Chevrolet store and one of the largest in the entire country. And we did our best to return the favor by providing top-notch customer service as well as by building a community-oriented, state-of-the-art facility that is unmatched anywhere.”
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