GORHAM – More than a decade after he sold Berlin City Auto Group, Dan Dagesse is returning to the auto dealership world in New Hampshire. Partnering with him are two of his former general managers who report they are happy to be working with the man they consider the best in the business.
Don Noyes and Shawn Hanlon both worked for Dagesse before the two started Auto North in Gorham. Noyes is now finalizing the purchase of the Colebrook dealership with Dagesse as a partner and Shawn Hanlon is doing the same with the Meredith Ford dealership in Plymouth, also with Dagesse as a partner.
“He’s always been a mentor. Now we get to have him as a partner,” said Hanlon.
Along with new ownership will come name changes and major investments in the two northern New Hampshire dealerships.
Brooks Chevrolet is now Don Noyes Chevrolet and a new 14,000-square-foot building is under construction. Noyes said when the building is finished, the old building will be torn down and the area paved for parking space. Noyes said he has tripled the number of new Chevrolet cars and trucks on the lot and already he is seeing an increase in sales volume.
“I’m very excited,” Noyes said. "I’m investing in the North Country – I’m from here.”
Hanlon said Meredith Ford will become Plymouth Ford. While the dealership has plenty of space, Hanlon said they are already working on remodeling the building and replacing all of the service equipment. He said the dealership will increase its inventory of vehicles and expects to add more sales associates and service technicians.
“We plan to grow that business fairly quickly,” he said.
The three men have deep ties to the North Country, to the auto business, and to each other.
Born in Colebrook, Dagesse purchased his first dealership in 1977 and soon after started a new small dealership on Route 16 in Berlin that he named Berlin City Ford.
Eventually moving to the Berlin-Gorham Road, the dealership grew into Berlin City Auto Group representing nine different franchises.
Don Noyes came to work for Dagesse in 1982 and then left the automotive world to own and operate the Northland Restaurant in Canaan, Vermont, with his wife for almost a decade. He returned to work for his brother-in-law as the general manager of Berlin City Auto Group.
Growing up in Maine, Hanlon started working at a Toyota dealership while still in high school and became a salesman when he turned 18. He was selling vehicles at a dealership in Portland when some co-workers left to take positions at Berlin City Auto Group. Hanlon was persuaded to interview for a job with Dagesse and was hired to be the used car manager.
Dagesse had recently purchased the local Chevrolet dealership and within six months, Hanlon was general manager there. He recalls Dagesse was just getting rolling in those days, building Berlin City into a high volume dealership that would deliver cars to customers throughout the region.
In 2006, Dagesse sold Berlin City Auto Group. Noyes and Hanlon remained with the dealership for a while but when a building nearby came up for sale, Noyes and Hanlon jointly purchased it and established Auto North Pre-Owned SuperStore.
Hanlon said he was confident he and Noyes would be a good team because they had worked together for years at Berlin City.
“We already knew we could work together,” Hanlon said.
When Noyes learned Brooks Chevrolet was for sale, the pull of taking over a dealership where both he and his wife were raised proved irresistible.
The two partners agreed that Hanlon would purchase Noyes’ half share of Auto North. So last summer, Don and Ginette Noyes and Dan Dagesse entered into an agreement to purchase Brooks Chevrolet, with Noyes assuming managerial control on Sept. 1.
The new building under construction will have 12 to 14 service bays and three car showrooms. Noyes said he is replacing all the equipment including the lifts and alignment racks. He expects as the business grows, he will be adding auto technicians, clerical staff, and sales people.
“This is my passion, selling automobiles and servicing them,” Noyes said.
Dagesse, with his son Chris, purchased five Massachusetts dealerships from Ernie Boch Jr., and has since expanded that to nine Boch franchises. DCD Automotive Holdings also owns dealerships in Delaware.
Hanlon noted that as a New Hampshire native, Dagesse is always looking for opportunities in his home state and in particular in the North Country. Stopping at Meredith Ford to say hello to a longtime car dealer, Dagesse learned the owner was thinking about retiring. He called Hanlon to see if he would be interested in partnering.
Hanlon said the dealership is the only one in Plymouth and the area is growing as evidenced by the fact a Market Basket grocery store is being built there. While the sale is not finalized, Hanlon took over management of the dealership Feb. 1.
Partnering with Dagesse offers both North Country dealerships some distinct advantages. Hanlon said the two dealerships will provide an exclusive 20-year, 200,000-mile warranty on new vehicles because they recognize people in rural areas put on higher mileage.
“We think it’s going to be a real benefit to the people who do business with us,” Hanlon said. “It’s a pretty compelling reason to buy a car from us.”
The dealerships will have access to DCD’s inventory of about 1,700 used cars and to Dagesse’s experience driving sales through the Internet. The two partners will also have access to Dagesse, who plans to resettle at his lakeshore home in Gilford, only half an hour from the Plymouth dealership.
“Having his ear is valuable,” said Hanlon, noting Dagesse now does over $1.3 billion in sales at his dealerships.