The car lot is empty, the showroom floor quiet.
Alan Wilson says shuttering his Howard Wilson Mazda dealership on Lakeland Drive was the hardest decision he's made in his 30 years in the business. Employees got the news Thursday, the day it closed.
"I called the employees together, tried to explain a little bit what happened. Told them we were gonna discontinue operations," Wilson tells WLBT News. "They were obviously upset. I don't blame them. I was upset too."
A few employees in the service department were able to stay on through Friday, working on the remaining vehicles.
Wilson is trying to place some of the employees at other dealerships. He hopes to hire some of them at his thriving Howard Wilson Chrysler Jeep Dodge location, also on Lakeland Drive, which currently has 67 employees.
"I will be applying, and anywhere else," says service advisor Michelle Lee. Lee tells us no one knew the news was coming. She depends on her full-time job for income and health insurance.
We asked her if she's scared. "Very scared," she says. "We just moved to this area 1 1/2 years ago. I'm not familiar with a lot of places here. The car business has changed over the past few years, it's not how it used to be."
"I'm confident all these guys will land on their feet. It's a good group of people, they all have specific skills," Wilson says. "It didn't just happen overnight. It's been building up a long time. The dealership was never able to reach the volume levels we needed to be profitable."
The Mazda cars on the lot have been temporarily moved to the Chrysler Jeep Dodge lot. Mazda will buy them back.
Wilson hopes to sell the Mazda property.
©2010 WLBT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.