Editor's note: An earlier version of this story, which also appeared on Page 3 of the Dec. 24 print edition, mistakenly said that Marc Heitz Chevrolet in Norman is the top-selling Chevrolet dealership in Oklahoma.
Marc Heitz, a major Chevrolet dealer in Oklahoma, last week sold his hunting lodge-style store in Norman rather than change the facade and interior to comply with General Motors' facilities standards.
The sale came less than three months after Chevrolet sales chief Don Johnson visited the store and rejected a Heitz compromise so the store could continue collecting about $250,000 per quarter in dealer-excellence money from the Essential Brand Elements program.
"This way we didn't have to give up our principles for the money," Heitz, 48, said of the sale.
Oklahoma City Chevrolet dealer David Stanley bought Marc Heitz Chevrolet. Terms were not disclosed.
Stanley, 58, said he will bring the store into compliance with Chevrolet facilities standards, though it was too early to say how that will happen.
He said last week that he hoped to retain all 106 employees. "I love the store and the people around here," Stanley said. "We've already sold five or six cars today."
GM spokesman Tom Henderson declined to comment. Previously, GM had said the brand elements program, which pegs incentives to vehicle sales and quality benchmarks, would be unavailable to dealerships choosing "not to complete an image compliant facility."
Heitz said the Norman store, renamed David Stanley Chevrolet of Norman, is on pace to sell between 1,800 and 1,900 new vehicles in 2012. Stanley said David Stanley Chevrolet in Oklahoma City is the state's third best-selling Chevy store, with new-vehicle sales expected to reach 1,600 to 1,800 this year.
Stanley also owns David Stanley Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in suburban Oklahoma City.
Heitz, a first-generation car dealer who grew up on a dairy farm in Norman, said his decision to sell the business was difficult but necessary.
He said in addition to the loss of incentive money, he faced a ruptured relationship with Chevrolet that might have eventually hurt his discretionary vehicle allocation and cost him his Mark of Excellence award among other certifications for highly rated sales and service.
Heitz said he poured his heart and $20 million into the store when he built it in 2008 along busy Interstate 35 about three miles from the University of Oklahoma. He first opened a Chevrolet store in Norman in a refitted bowling alley in 2000.
The log store has been a destination for car shoppers, picnickers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The building looks like a Bass Pro Shops outlet inside and out. Indoors, it features a 45-foot waterfall, giant aquarium for local game fish and imprints of animal tracks on the concrete showroom floor.
Outdoors, the store has two dog runs, a picnic area, animal statues and a 110-foot signature windmill that generates 3 percent of the store's electricity.
Heitz held charitable events on the grounds and offered the picnic area to all comers. New-vehicle sales grew year-over-year the entire time he was in business. Heitz said the store was the 15th best-selling Chevrolet dealership in America and third in Corvette sales.
He said covering the unique facade with blue-and-white cladding demanded by Chevrolet and tiling over the animal tracks in the showroom would have been akin to putting "socks on a rooster."
Heitz said he planned to travel with his wife of 26 years. He also has four children. He said he had no immediate work plans.
Before he left, he said he planned to thank customers with full-page ads scheduled to have run this past Sunday in Norman and Oklahoma City newspapers.
To Chevrolet, he was less magnanimous.
"I'm not a big fan of GM right now and the guys making decisions there," Heitz said. "My guess is they won't be around to see the results of their actions."