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DeVinck's closes doors

A North End mainstay closes its doors today after 72 years. DeVinck's Inc., an auto sales and service center with the motto "Where sales are made through service," is the latest casualty of the GM bankruptcy.

DeVinck's
The DeVinck's Inc. sign waits for transport next to the 72-year-old business April 19. Owners John and Jerry DeVinck announced this week that the business will discontinue sales and service today.

A North End mainstay closes its doors today after 72 years. DeVinck's Inc., an auto sales and service center with the motto "Where sales are made through service," is the latest casualty of the GM bankruptcy.

Co-owner Jerry DeVinck said this is "just a sad time for us as a family."

Service and warranty work ends today. DeVinck and his brother, John, plan to sell off the remaining assets -- parts, inventory, special tools and the building at 1525 Broadway Street, which has housed DeVinck's since 1968. With the business closing, 10 employees will be laid off. DeVinck himself will be looking for a new path.

"I want to work," he said. "I like being with people and I like the community and I'll find something."

A lot of roads have opened up, DeVinck said, but "I haven't taken the exit ramp."

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DeVinck's was one of hundreds of dealerships nationwide set to lose their franchise by October. But the death knell for the Superior business came earlier than expected. DeVinck said their franchise was terminated April 16. Their sign was carted away three days later. Finally, on April 21, the business was notified it could no longer do warranty work or order parts.

"It was like a shot over the bow," DeVinck said. "You knew it was coming but you never got the official word."

While the dealership could have appealed the decision, he said, it would have required a pricey lawsuit and a significant dollar investment in a new building and management that "wouldn't fit the business model or business plan going forward."

The 72-year-old business was started by his father in 1938. It began as a Mack truck and Oakland dealer. Oakland changed to Pontiac, and the Cadillac franchise was added in 1957. The GM franchise was added in 1965; the Buick franchise in 1982. DeVinck and his brother, John, have been working at the dealership since their youth.

"Sweeping floors and washing cars all the way up to selling cars and managing it," he said. "It's in your blood."

Over the years, DeVinck had a reputation for going the extra mile for customers. Employees changed many flat tires on Saturdays and Sundays. They fixed car troubles at night, on weekends and even on holidays. DeVinck recalled spending a number of New Year's Eves jump starting customers' cars. Service, he said, was key.

"Especially when the cars didn't start in the cold, cold weather," he said. "They had to get to work and they knew they could call you to get their car started or bring it down and get it fixed."

They also formed lasting, multi-generational ties with families - selling cars to a young person whose father and grandfather also purchased cars from the family business.

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John Murphy, retired publisher of the Telegram, has been a DeVinck's customer since the mid-1970s. He and his wife, Jan, have bought half a dozen cars from the North End business.

"We've always been happy with the service," he said.

And with the friendship.

"We've known John and Jerry not only through the business but personally through the years," Murphy said. "They've been around a long time. I hate to see them go."

The longtime car dealer sent a message to the community Thursday.

"Thank everybody for their years of faith in us and doing business and trusting us for their sales and service," DeVinck said. "They'll always be friends, whether we're in biz or not."

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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