Matt Cook, new Dealer Principal of Juneau Auto Mall, formerly Mendenhall Auto Center, poses for a photo on Wednesday. Cook took over ownership officially on Wednesday, March 1. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Matt Cook, new Dealer Principal of Juneau Auto Mall, formerly Mendenhall Auto Center, poses for a photo on Wednesday. Cook took over ownership officially on Wednesday, March 1. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Ownership transition drives change at dealership

Juneau Auto Mall, formerly known as Mendenhall Auto Center, officially opened its doors on March 1.

Buying cars in Southeast Alaska is about to be easier, said Matt Cook, CEO of Goode Motor Auto Group, and a wider selection of vehicles is expected to be available, too.

Juneau Auto Mall, formerly known as Mendenhall Auto Center, officially opened its doors on March 1 with new ownership. Though the name has changed, the dealership will still operate under the individual names of Juneau Toyota; Juneau Subaru; Juneau Honda; Juneau Chevrolet; Juneau Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram; and Juneau Powersports. Additionally, Cook said that while no changes were made to personnel within the transition, people can expect big changes to selection.

“With the exception of maybe a German-made vehicle, we have every type of vehicle you could possibly want represented here in one of those six major brands and not just automobiles but powersports, as well,” Cook said. “We have everything from lawnmowers to dually diesel trucks and everything in between.”

In addition to selection, Cook said the most immediate change that customers may see will be an emphasis on stocking and selling pre-owned vehicles. Cook said he plans to stock a broad array of new and used vehicle inventory to meet all price points for customers, which Cook’s business partner Graydon Funk said they feel will be a huge service for a place like Juneau specifically.

“My sister and her husband, they’d end up getting a used car from the Lower 48 and then bring it to Alaska just to have it break down,” Funk said. “If we can bring 60 to 80 used cars on the lot where people can come look at them and touch them and test drive them and they don’t have to fly and schedule a barge, that’s a huge service to that community, to be able to come in and check the car out for yourself and then if something goes wrong with it to be able to bring it back to us locally instead of having to ship it back to Seattle.”

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire 
Art Tack helps a customer on Wednesday at the newly named Juneau Auto Mall, which changed hands officially on Wednesday, March 1 from its previous name Mendenhall Auto Center.

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire
Art Tack helps a customer on Wednesday at the newly named Juneau Auto Mall, which changed hands officially on Wednesday, March 1 from its previous name Mendenhall Auto Center.

One of the main things about the dealership that appealed to Cook was that former owners Steve and Karla Allwine had been running a family business in a small community, which was something Cook was familiar with from running his family dealership in Southern Idaho. The parallels between the two small town businesses was something Steve Allwine said was important to them, as well.

“Juneau is our home, we have a lot of relationships we’ve formed here, so we’re not leaving, so it was important that our people were treated fairly and whoever stepped in to do what we do understood this community and appreciated it for what it was,” Allwine said. “For us to do this, it had to be the right person, who we were comfortable with and had similar philosophies to what we had who believed in community involvement and we felt would treat our people well.”

Allwine explained that while working with cars has been not only his life’s work but also his life’s passion, after 35 years in the business, as he and his wife Karla approach their 70s, it was the right time for a change.

“I’ve worked with cars my entire adult life but we reached a point where it didn’t make sense to do it forever,” Allwine said. “We made a conscious decision to sell, it wasn’t really intentional, we’ve had a couple of folks make a run at us but they weren’t a right fit for the community, which was really important to us. We are confident that Matt and his crew have the ability to maybe take the dealership to a next level because of their resources and I think that the community and our employees will benefit significantly.”

Cook said that while the dealership isn’t quite as far along as they’d like to be, within the next month or so, Cook and his crew aim to make Juneau Auto Mall a one-stop shop for auto-related needs. From simple services to the actual purchasing of cars, Cook said he wants to cater to as many people as possible so people aren’t having to travel outside of the area to get any of their needs met.

“Soon people will be able to get onto our website and schedule a service appointment without having to talk to anyone,” Cook said. “You’ll be able to go through a car buying process from our website, you’ll be able to look at all of the cars and see tons of pictures and be able to interact with us because a lot of our clientele don’t live right here in Juneau, they live in some of the outer areas, so we’re trying to modernize and digitize the dealership experience so that it’s easy for people to transact business with us.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

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