When you’ve been in the high-performance automobile dealership business for 25 years like President Tom Anderson of Carrera Motors, you’ll likely have a few stories to tell along the highway to success.
So please pardon Anderson if he takes a moment to share some of the lasting memories of owning the south Highway 97 dealership after completing the 4.5-acre campus with the opening of the impressive BMW Center.
For openers, the first German dealership in the high desert was actually a grocery store that began selling Volkswagen Beetles in 1954. The store stood on the present site of Carrera Motors Audi/VW Service Center and the only qualification for selling the novelty cars back in the 1950’s is that you had to order two of them to become an official dealership.
“They had two of them on the floor right when you walked into the store,” Anderson said. “You could get a loaf of bread, half gallon of milk and a new car.”
The Volkswagen grocery store eventually evolved into Mid Oregon Motors, serving what was a small town of 16,000. You could buy a new Beetle for $1,577 and Anderson has had a lot of repeat customers along the way, but none that compare to the gentleman who purchased a 1958 VW Bug and called him nearly 30 years later, asking him if he wanted to buy it back.
“The guy was getting pretty old and suffered from cataracts, so he was no longer driving the car,” Anderson said. “I asked him what he wanted for the car and he said, ‘The same price that I paid for it.’ So, we bought it back from him.”
The green Volkswagen Beetle with 60,000 original miles and the original tires now sits on the Carrera Motors Audi/VW showroom floor.
Ironically, a large portion of the old grocery store was remodeled into Carrera Motors Audi/Volkswagen Service Center. When the building remodeled to accommodate the service center, construction crews found ledgers for meat, pork and sausage orders plastered on the old walls.
Even Anderson’s office has some history. Before it became Carrera Motors Porsche Center, the building was the home to a Dunkin Donut shop.
“It smelled like cinnamon for the first couple of months when we moved in,” he said.
Even today, Carrera Motors new BMW Center, a two-level, 14,000 square foot showroom, parts and service department complete with a luxurious customer waiting room, also has a bit of history.
The centerpiece of the showroom is a 1928 BMW Dixie Roadster that a friend of Anderson’s found and had completely restored in Poland and then shipped to the Bend dealership.
The vehicle features a leather fan belt (there were no rubber fan belts in the 1920’s) and a single entry door on the passenger side. If you’re the driver, you either climb into the roadster or slide across the bench seat.
“Initially, the BMW was created by English designers before the plans were sent to German, thus, a right-side door for right-side drive,” Anderson said.
Anderson has now laid for the foundation for further highway tales with the completion of the BMW Center on the northwest side of the campus. J.D.Matteson, Architect along with strong support by designer Jim Rozewski and the BMW Design Center in Nashville, Tennessee designed the custom metal building with strong elements of titanium, gray and silver.
Melrose Construction, with general contractor Chris Melrose, his wife, Cindy, and fellow general contractor Stephen Perrault worked diligently with an impressive group of subcontractors to construct the building.
The interior showroom is well illuminated with the cars as the stars sitting on a bulletproof porcelain floor. There’s also a boutique area for accessories, T-shirts and hats and two customer service desks for appointments.
The service center includes clinker tile that looks like brick that Anderson says every BMW dealership from Florence, Italy to Bend must have for durability and density and nine service bays with entry through a pair of 26-foot wide rollup doors.
An impressive parts department when fully stocked will have 30,000 parts and is computer catalogued so technicians can find virtually anything stored in a bin with the click of a mouse.
The second level mezzanine area that leads to a customer waiting room and conference center overlooks the entire showroom. The customer lounge includes a fireplace, flat-panel HDTV, mini-bar, outside deck with views of the Cascades and five portal windows that look down at the vehicles while they are being serviced.
A campus roundabout that was fashionable long before the City of Bend started creating them separates the three service centers and the unique Club Carrera, a members-only, card access club for those who own fine European cars.
The two-level club allows members to work on their vehicles at a detail service bay, place their car on consignment in a showroom area, browse through an extensive library of European car literature or simply relax in the spacious lounge.
“To my knowledge, there isn’t anything else like Club Carrera at any dealership in the country,” Anderson said. “What we’ve tried to do is create a lifestyle for high-performance automobile owners.
“When I told Porsche and my friends back 25 years ago that I wanted to open a dealership in a town of 16,000, they said, ‘You want to do what?’ Most though I was crazy. Today, we’ve completed the campus with this beautiful new building and I couldn’t be happier.”
Carrera Motors/BMW Center
Contractor: Melrose Construction
Support Contractor: Stephen Perrault Construction
Architect: J.D. Matteson, Architect
Square Footage: 14,000
Project Designer: Rozewski & Co. Designers
Interior Designer: Cindy Melrose
Structural Engineer: Zbinden-Carter Engineers
Civil Engineer: Otak, Inc.
Financing: US Bank
Subcontractors & Suppliers: Advanced Steel Systems, Advanced Systems, Affordable Quality Maintenance, Ameritech Machine, Austin Tile & Marble, Bend Construction Supply, Bobcat & Sun, Bryan Jolly Construction, Carlson Sign, Carlson Testing, Cascade Door, Cascade Heating &Specialties, Central Oregon Concrete Construction, Comfort Insulation, Commercial Powder Coating, David L. Stone, Design Lighting, Designer Surfaces, Doug Nash Striping, Evergreen Plantscapes, Finer Cabinetry, Fireside Spa & Patio, Green Planet, Guarantee Glass, H & W Pre-Hung Doors, Herman Miller Workplace, I & J Carpets, Jeff Rychard Construction Services, Jerry Collier, Johnson Brothers TV & Appliance, Lee Ramsey Plumbing, McBeth Services, Mike’s Fence Center, Miller Custom Drywall, Miller Lumber, Morgan’s Fine Finishes, Paul Cahill Construction, Professional Wall Covering, River Roofing, Sam Folley Construction, Severson Fire Protection, Stedman Sheetmetal, Tomco Electric, Van Nevel Curbing, Vic Russell Construction and We-Cut Concrete.