Chrysler dealership meant more than new cars to Arizona family

May 19, 2009

This is part of a series of personal accounts about small business and the recession. The writers are contributors to Associated Content.

by Jared Huggins

As I drive my new Chrysler 300 south on Alma School Road in Mesa, Ariz., I can’t help but feel a bit melancholy. Darner Chrysler Jeep, the 45-year-old Mesa-based business where I bought my new wheels, is among nearly 800 Chrysler dealerships across the country closing its doors.

I grew up less than two miles from Darner, one of Arizona’s oldest dealerships. My father bought his first new car, a 1968 Chrysler Newport, from Darner. The pearl white Newport was not so much a family car as it was a way to find women, dad told me. It was enough to catch the eye of my mother.

For years my family has purchased cars, trucks and vans from Darner. I was there less than a month ago, signing paperwork on the killer deal I got because of the economy. This week, I felt the urge to go back.

The dealership is owned by Joey Darner, a tall, lanky man. He was standing in front of the dealership when I pulled into the lot. I approached the front door of the dealership, trying to find the salesman who had sold me my Chrysler 300, but I first ran into Joey.

“Hey, how do you like that new 300?” he asked.

I told him I loved it. It’s a great ride. We talked about the dealership’s closure and whether he was going to fight it.

“The fault was not on the dealers here,” Joey told me. He said Chrysler won’t buy back the new cars. They’re going to keep the downtown dealership open, but it will only sell used vehicles.

I told him I was sorry to hear that. I’ll miss Darner. That was the end of our brief talk. He then thanked me for my business and moved onto the next customer.

When I pulled out of the parking lot, probably for the last time, I felt the impact of the economic turndown in a way that really hit home for me and my family. Darner was part of the community, and I will miss it a great deal.

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