WINTHROP — Already the capitol region’s top-selling car business, Charlie’s Dealership Group is now driving farther west with the purchase of Bob Barrows Chevrolet on U.S. Route 202.

The Shuman Family LLC bought the Bob Barrows Chevrolet site at 1400-1412 U.S. Route 202 on Tuesday, according to records in the Kennebec County Registry of Deeds.

By Wednesday morning, the receptionist at Barrows Chevrolet answered the phone by saying, “Charlie’s Chevrolet.”

“We closed on it yesterday; it’s officially ours,” Charlie Shuman, of the Shuman family, which has operated automotive dealerships in Augusta for 26 years, said Wednesday.

Shuman, who started in the automobile businesses 49 years ago, declined to say what he had paid for the property and the dealership — a price was not filed publicly — except that “it was a fair price for us and a fair price for them.”

Documents filed at the Kennebec County Registry of Deeds show that the property secures a mortgage of up to $500,000 from Keybank National Association.

Tom Brown, executive director of the Augusta-based Maine Automobile Dealers Association Inc., a trade association of franchise new vehicle dealers, said Charlie’s dealership group is the largest in Augusta and among the top-selling dealership groups in the state in terms of unit sales.

“The public continues to be served in greater Winthrop, having Chevrolet sales and used vehicle sales,” Brown said. “You’re still going to have a local dealership to service needs of people in the Greater Winthrop area.”

Brown said new vehicle sales in 2012 in Maine will total between 55,000 and 60,000; used vehicle sales by association members are expected to total 75,000 to 80,000. He said that those numbers do not include sales by used car dealers or private sales.

Charlie’s sells new vehicle lines that include Honda, Jeep, Toyota, Scion, Subaru, Kia, Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and now Chevrolet. The dealerships sell used vehicles as well.

The Chevrolet dealership will remain in Winthrop, and Shuman’s son, Steve, will be president.

“My son is going to be a busy man,” Charlie Shuman said, speaking from Charlie’s Motor Mall in Augusta. “We’re a family business. It was a family business for 40 years, and we’re going to continue that. We’re going to increase the business substantially with our resources and all the used cars we have here.”

Charlie’s dealerships sell more than 6,000 vehicles annually, he said.

Almost all the workers from Barrows will remain under the new ownership — about 90 percent, Shuman said — though some will not. Charlie’s has begun running advertisements saying it is hiring for all positions, including sales, parts and service.

Bob Barrows’ former owner, Tommy Barrows, is taking some time off.

“I’ll spend some more time enjoying the outdoors and spend some much-deserved time with family,” Barrows said Wednesday. “Eventually I will seek other employment. In almost 30 years of doing this, I’ve taken very little time off.”

Barrows’ father started the business in 1972. Barrows noted that the larger building was erected as a Chevrolet store in the 1950s and the westernmost building on the property was originally a Ford dealership.

Tommy Barrows spent almost 28 years in the business, which also employed his mother, his father and his brother. Barrows said he chose to sell to Charlie Shuman’s family, and they were the only buyers he talked to.

“They’ve done a fantastic job in Augusta and they’ll do a great job in Winthrop. Words can’t say how proud I am to have the Shumans own my dealership. They’re going to grow Winthrop,” he said.

Shuman, who lives in Winthrop, said he has been working on the deal for a while.

“It was a great transaction,” Shuman said. “We’ll be great friends. Tommy is still available to us, and he has some great people down there.”

Charlie Shuman said he plans some improvements at his newest dealership.

“We’re already starting today, modernizing the building, redoing the customer lounge completely and redoing part of the service department,” he said Wednesday.

Shuman said plans could include redoing the entire building into what is known as an “image building” within a couple of years, depending on support from Chevrolet itself. Features would include an inside drive-through for customers and other features similar to those in place at Charlie’s dealerships in Augusta.

He said three or four employees have been added and he expects to add 15 to 20 more within the next six months. All told, Charlie’s dealership group employs more than 260 people, Shuman said.

The two parcels at the Chevrolet dealership include one property assessed at $712,000, with slightly more than $107,000 of that for the 1.25-acre site; and an adjacent 1.3-acre site containing a warehouse, which is assessed separately at $160,100, according to property records.

The properties pay almost $13,000 in real estate and personal property taxes to the town of Winthrop, according to the Town Assessor Maura Smith.


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