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New London's Whaling City Motors carving out new space

By Lee Howard

Publication: theday.com

Published January 08. 2013 3:00PM   Updated January 08. 2013 4:13PM
Tim Cook/The Day
Work crews from Barberi Brothers Demolition tear down the former Meineke Muffler garage Tuesday at the corner of Broad and Coleman streets in New London, making more room for Whaling City Motors.

New London — Whaling City Motors stepped into a new era today by knocking down the former Meineke Car Care Center at the corner of Colman and Broad streets, giving the auto dealership a stronger presence and more space for its display of new and used cars and trucks.

"It's going to look so much better," Romana Strochlitz Primus, president of the auto dealership, said as an excavator from Waterford-based Barberi Brothers Demolition crunched away at the Meineke facade.

Primus' father, Sigmund Strochlitz, who had begun selling cars downtown on Main Street (now known as Eugene O'Neill Drive), in 1957, moved the Whaling City dealership to its current spot in 1966. Strochlitz was one of the first car dealers to recognize the Colman-Broad intersection as a great location, and others followed, making the corner today one of the top two in terms of sales throughout Connecticut, according to Chuck Primus, Whaling City's vice president.

But Strochlitz, who died in 2006, had one pet project that he never finished: the acquisition of the one-third of an acre that had housed a Meineke business since 1979.

"My dad really wanted this corner for years," Romana Primus said. "It's nice to complete his vision."

The former Meineke location will allow Whaling City to display about 35 new and used vehicles. The dealership currently sells Ford, Lincoln and Mazda cars and trucks.

Whaling City Motors has about 250 cars on 2.5 acres. It just completed a renovation of its Mazda operation last year, and soon will begin creating a new area to separate the Ford and Lincoln brands.

Denis Wickham, who owns the New London Meineke franchise along with others in Groton and Norwich, said he finally agreed to offer his prime corner spot on a long-term lease to Whaling City Motors after finding a new Meineke location at 665 Broad St., in the former Midas car care center. The new location has six bays, versus the four at his previous spot, and it has a better waiting area for customers, he said.

Wickham said he converted a former 1950s gas station into the Meineke franchise, and it was a great location but always had limitations in terms of space.

"It's good for everybody," he said of his move and the decision to tear down the Meineke building to create a true auto-dealership corner. "This is the gateway to the city, and this was in the way, really."

l.howard@theday.com

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