It's official! Christian Brothers Motors is open for business, bringing a flurry of positive changes with them. Todd and Karl Christian, who own GM dealerships in Fertile, Minn. and Finley, N.D., purchased the Salem Motors Ford location in Crookston, allowing former owner Bud Salem to head into retirement.
"The decision to purchase the former Salem Motors was primarily based on the economy and changes occurring within General Motors," said Todd Christian. "The time was right."
Ironically, Todd had run into Bud Salem a number of times over the last ten years and Bud had jokingly suggested Christian buy out Salem Motors.
The other Christian Brothers dealerships are located in towns of only 800 people. With sales of 200 new vehicles in both outlying locations each year and sales of 400 used vehicles in Fertile and 600 annually, Todd Christian commented on being in a town with a population of 8,000 people as "full of endless possibilities." Due to the expectation of higher volume sales and service needs, the Christian brothers have hired additional sales and service staff, taking pride in the fact that a majority of their employees are Crookston residents.
One would think changing the ownership on a dealership would be a fairly basic process; however, Todd Christian said it was an "intense" process. Even though Salem Motors was a Ford dealership, he explained, Ford Motor Company required stacks of paperwork, profit analysis and background checks before offering the Christian brothers a dealer's license last Tuesday.
Major renovations are in the works, ranging from greatly expanding the new and used inventory of cars, pickups and SUVs to exterior and interior remodeling. Although signage on the building will be changed within the next few weeks and inventory continues to arrive, a majority of the upgrades intended will take some time. Once finished, a grand opening will be planned to introduce the business to the Crookston community and residents of surrounding areas.
A focus of Christian Brothers Ford will be a high level of no-pressure customer service, both when purchasing a vehicle and when having a car or truck serviced. The new owners want people to feel comfortable talking with them and to be able to trust that everything said is true. No one will be talked into purchasing unnecessary parts for their vehicles. The hope this is this will lead to a lot of repeat customers, similar to their other dealerships were third-generation customers are not uncommon. "It is our goal to get the dealership back to what it used to be at its greatest point," said Todd Christian.
Lots of history
There is an old song with lyrics that say, "1946 was a good year." That is certainly the case when thinking back to the history of Salem Motors. In 1946, Bud Salem's cousin, George, opened the very first branch of Salem Motors in Fertile. Within the next few years, George Salem expanded his dealerships by adding locations in Grand Forks and Red Lake Falls, where Bud began his motor vehicle sakes career at age of 24.
Page 2 of 2 - In 1964, the Ford Motor Company closed its dealership, Saul Motors, in Crookston. George and Bud sprang into action, traveling to the Ford district office in Fargo to register their own branch in Crookston. Thus, Salem Motors of Crookston came to be in its original downtown location.
In 1978, after his cousin George had passed away, Bud Salem relocated the dealership to Highway 2 and took on Harold Martin as a business partner. Later, Dennis Martin joined Salem Motors as a partner and vice president.
As his nearly 50-year career in the auto business draws to a close and his dealership is turned over to new hands, Bud Salem says, " Thank you to all of the people in the community and surrounding area for using Salem Motors for your purchase and service needs."
A retirement celebration for Bud Salem is in the works.