North Country Auto returns to Houlton

12 years ago

Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BU-CLR-North Country-dc-pt-38BACK IN BUSINESS — North Country Auto has returned to Houlton, opening a dealership on the North Road. With owner Randy Norsworthy, left, at the Houlton location is Alex Hutchinson. Business has been brisk since the dealership opened at the first of the month.

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    HOULTON — It is often said that competition is good when it comes to business. That is precisely what the owners of North Country Auto are hoping for as the car dealership has returned to the Shiretown after a two-year absence.
    North Country Auto, owned by Randy Norsworthy, returned to Houlton two weeks ago, opening its door at the beginning of September at 519 North St., the former site of Houlton Power Sports. And if the first week of sales is any indication, business is booming. In its first four days, five vehicles were sold and by the end of two weeks, 14 were sold.
    The dealership also has locations in Presque Isle and Lincoln.
    “Coming back to Houlton just made sense,” Norsworthy said. “We are on pace for about 30 vehicles this month. If we can do that, we will be just fine. I’m excited about the Houlton market.”
    A Houlton location made sense to Norsworthy because it gives a natural progression for customers flowing from the St. John Valley, who shop in Presque Isle, to Houlton and down to his store in Lincoln. The dealership maintains about 175 vehicles throughout its three locations, with about 40-50 located in Houlton. All of the vehicles can be found on the company’s website and can be brought to Houlton for customers to test drive, he said.
    Consumer tastes have changed somewhat in recent years, with demands for trucks replaced by more fuel efficient smaller Sport Utility Vehicles and cars.
    “At $4 per gallon, folks are watching their fuel efficiency,” he said. “We are selling more cars now than we ever used to. That’s not to say there isn’t a need for SUVs and trucks though.”
    The number of import vehicles is also on the rise, as customers are often looking for Subaru, Mazda and Toyota.
    “We move inventory every day, so if something is in Lincoln but is needed in Houlton, we can move it,” he said.
     North Country Auto first opened its doors in the Shiretown in 2006 with a shop on the corner of Kendall and Military streets. A move was later made to 381 North St., with the hopes of increasing visibility. But when the economy took a turn for the worse, selling autos became increasingly difficult, Norsworthy said. North Country Auto closed its doors in Houlton in, September 2010.
    “We were sad to leave,” said Norsworthy. “We have always had very good business in Houlton.”
    Norsworthy said the reason they left Houlton was two-fold.
    “We had lost a number of quality people at the dealership and our business is always about the people we have,” he said. “If we don’t have good people, we are unsuccessful. The staff we finished up with in Houlton was not my best staff.”
    He added the lease was up for the property on 381 North St. and the economic conditions at that time were not strong enough for him to continue in the area.
    “It was very difficult for us,” Norsworthy said. “That final year we did not do very well. It grieved me to leave, because Houlton had been our best performing dealership for a number of years.”
    “Houlton was always a good spot for us,” added Kevin Nightingale, general manager. “We have had a lot of people call or come in to welcome us back to town, which was nice.”
    Joining Nightingale in the Houlton office is Alex Hutchinson. Additional staff members will be added in the near future. North Country Auto is open Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.ncountryauto.com.