Winnipeg Free Press

Auto Show a warm spot in a cold place

by Myron Love  . Nov 17 2017
Auto Show Sales and Finance on McGillivray Boulevard brings a southwestern-themed auto showcase to Winnipeg. (Myron Love / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Auto Show Sales and Finance on McGillivray Boulevard brings a southwestern-themed auto showcase to Winnipeg. (Myron Love / Winnipeg Free Press files)

A relatively new used-car operation in South Winnipeg is offering a sense of the American southwest to our wintry city.

Auto Show Sales and Finance partners Harley Unruh, Ty Unruh and Joe Kupfer operate a busy dealership on McGillivray Boulevard (just west of the Fort Whyte Centre) that has uniquely transformed an existing nondescript building into a southwestern-themed auto showcase complete with palm trees and cacti and an ersatz inner courtyard which serves as a backdrop for photos of all Auto Show vehicles posted online.

“While we were working on the transformation, we were garnering a lot of attention from passersby,” says Harley Unruh, who has 20 years of experience in auto sales. “People were curious about what was going on and what we were doing with the property. As people dropped in during construction and saw the extensive stone and custom woodwork, the most prevailing thought was a new theme-based restaurant, lounge or a sports bar!”

Harley went to great lengths to create the southwestern motif. The palm trees, he says, were imported from Texas. “All of the furniture was hand-carved in Mexico,” he says. “The staircase (to the second level) and interior woodwork is made of heavy-gauge distressed lumber, and all hand-hewn on site to provide that rugged western look.”

The large flat fieldstones that are part of the wall in the showroom are from Arizona. Vintage Winnipeg, in keeping with the time era, is also showcased in the customer lounge with well-known Winnipeg artist Charlie Johnston, hand-painting large murals depicting various iconic and historic landmarks and events.

The western look has also been carried over into the washrooms, with hand-carved solid wood doors, and sinks and vanities built with reclaimed Manitoba lumber, fieldstone and original hammered copper trim and accents.

The walls around the interior courtyard are made of concrete and treated with acid to create an etched and aged effect. The trim is solid scored aluminum that reflects the many lights from various strategic locations, while one wall features a massive rugged 20-foot fieldstone fireplace. In order to create an outdoor look and feel, the flooring is constructed of paving stones, and brick planters.

The customer lounge is located a few steps higher than the showroom and has a pool table fashioned from a ’65 Ford Mustang. Customers can also help themselves to fresh popcorn and fresh ground coffee and view an 80-inch flat screen or play vintage video games.

Also located in the showroom are a 1927 Model T Roadster, a 2000 Plymouth Prowler and a 1929 Mercedes-Benz roadster in the courtyard.

Harley also points out Auto Show’s Google centre, where there are three self-help stations, which allow customers to browse through the store’s inventory, compare pricing or just access the web without having to interact with sales personnel.

“Sometimes shoppers just prefer to browse on their own at their own pace,” he says, “and then decide whether or not they want to ask for further assistance from staff. Part of our mandate is to be hospitable, courteous and helpful, and letting people know that we are happy enough with just having them drop in whether they are shoppers, buyers or just leisurely browsers.”

Kupfer has been involved in the auto business for 12 years, and joined both Ty and Harley Unruh in the quest to offer a unique and refreshing approach to the auto industry. The 22,000-square-foot building was purchased from Terry Smith, founder of the Boyd Autobody Group, who also had previously operated Cars Winnipeg with his partner, the late Mark Bychkowsky, out of the McGillivray location. The original 16-acre site, much of it being meadow and bush, is no longer recognizable due to many hundreds of loads of fill and extensive landscaping.

Harley acquired an adjoining five acres, which are used for vehicle display and parking. Cream property management group is developing the new “lakes of Fort Whyte” business park on the Eastern portion of the 21-acre site. Infrastructure has been completed this fall and building is to commence in spring of 2018.

“This is an absolutely great location,” Kupfer says. “We are near one of the busiest and fastest growing retail areas in Winnipeg, and we are just a 10-minute drive away from both the Waverley Auto Mall and the Pointe West AutoPark.”

Harley reports the partners worked on the facility for almost two years and have been open for business for just over a year. Auto Show carries an inventory of more than 200 vehicles.

“We carry in our inventory a great selection of late model vehicles, representing most manufacturers, with a strong emphasis on light duty, medium and heavy duty trucks — including diesels and lifted trucks, as well,” Kupfer says. “We will also usually try to have a nice selection of sport, specialty and high-performance vehicles for the car enthusiast.”

The partners also make a point of giving back to the community. Kupfer reports that every month Auto Show supports a different charity. For example, on Nov. 5, Auto Show donated their space to the Blue Bomber Cheer Team. The month before, funds were donated to the Frosting Foundation — Auto Show’s charity for October — which provides birthday presents to children in hospital. “We exist to support our community,” Harley says, “to provide our employees an opportunity to learn and grow, our customers with a great place to shop and reward the hard-working people in our charitable sector.”

“Business thus far has been great,” Harley says. “We really enjoy and have fun with people dropping in out of curiosity initially, just to see the building and asking where they can buy 16-foot palm trees for their backyard or cottage. We just might start adding them to our inventory. “

Dealer of the week

Sales Rep: Carol Enano

Dealership: Crown Honda

No. of Years: 3.5 

Favourite Model: Honda CR-V

Why: "The CR-V is fuel efficient and good for winter driving," Enano says."It was the first vehicle I drove after coming to Canada. My husband said that winter driving is crazy here, and it gives him peace of mind when I am driving a CR-V."