In late 2005, Ivette Dominguez and her husband, Michael Drawe, purchased Alpine Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Denver from Sonic Automotive Group. And they have been profitable since Day One -- a remarkable feat, since they were quickly buffeted by the worst economic environment in decades.
As the couple struggled to build the company and create a reputation in the Denver area, the business was hit by a tornado of bad news: the credit crisis in September 2008, a deep recession, the death of Pontiac and GM's trip through bankruptcy.
Total dealership revenue dropped 18 percent last year, but the dealership remained profitable by switching this year to one-price selling and by starting a pair of programs aimed at increasing its service business. No one was laid off.
"It was really hard to stay focused on business because there were so many things that were outside our realm of control," Dominguez said. "Over the course of 2009 we had to kind of change how we did business."
Alpine, which is on 3 acres in a struggling auto park, didn't have many opportunities to change its business model. Space is tight in Alpine's small showroom.