High-end indoor automobile sales takes over old hardware store

Jarrod Schoenecker photos
The building and parking lot renovations to get ready for the new business at 104 Oak Avenue Southwest.

A number of residents in Montgomery have been wondering what is going on with the old Ace Hardware store building on 104 Oak Avenue Southwest. Remodeling of the building and, this past week, a re-pavement of the parking lot, have made people curious.

The building and lot are now owned by Michael and Meghan Benzinger of Faribault who will be moving a high-end automobile sales business, Luxury Auto Auctions, into it. Some of the concerns at the public hearing during the planning and zoning commission meeting on Tuesday, May 9, included whether or not the business would generate a high volume of traffic around the perimeter. This was quickly and easily addressed since the business will only take appointments and is only selling their vehicles online and indoors.

The city council on Monday, May 15, voted to approve both the conditional use permit and the rezoning of the property to allow the business to move forward. The space, which resides in a residential neighborhood just off of the downtown district, was zoned for the central business downtown business district, which does not allow the sales of autos. It has been rezoned as community commercial property which does allow for auto sales.

Vehicles to be sold at the facility generally range in value from $100,000 to $500,000, according to owner Michael Benzinger. In protection of the vehicles, sales and any serious buyers looking to get a glimpse at the vehicles before purchase will be done inside the building. This prohibits any liability of the vehicles being scratched or damaged by casual lookers or the like. He assured me that the windows they are replacing on the building will still allow a view of the luxurious vehicles it will hold, if those of the community want to get a peek at them.

Given the price-point of the vehicles, it was asked, “Why are you doing this in Montgomery?” Owners Michael and Meghan Benzinger said, “It’s close to home and in a nice quiet town. We like the brewery and Pizzeria 201. Plus, I’ve done work here before (Michael).” The couple, who own five different businesses, also own a construction business, Pro Guard Roofing and Restoration. They are the ones doing the restoration work on the building itself, which has been a lot more work than they anticipated, and much is due to the former tenants of the building after the hardware store left.

The couple lives in Faribault and they are temporarily operating the business out of a location in Albert Lea until this facility gets finished. Benzingers said that they basically turned a hobby into a business. They also said that it takes a large amount of capital to start the business up and to purchase the cars. Both expressed that it has taken them years to get themselves acquainted with the business with items such as where to go to obtain cars and to get to know people in the industry.

When it comes to the actual sales of vehicles, Benzingers say... Read the rest of the story in the May 18 edition of the Montgomery Messenger. Subscribe online.

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