Platte City car dealership gives nod to past, while looking toward future

Lee Hockensmith, managing partner of Platte City Airport Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, recently completed the move of his dealership, seen here outside of the showroom at 2605 NW Prairie View Rd. in Platte City. Some things are just ahead of their time. That seems to be true of both a newly-relocated and expanded Platte City automobile dealership and its predecessor of more than four decades ago. In September, Platte City-Airport Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram moved from its former location at 601 Main Street in Platte City to a 4½-acre location at 2605 NW Prairie View Road along the city’s south business corridor.

The move was the latest significant development from the dealership since it acquired the former Tony Martens Dodge business in January of this year. Platte City-Airport Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram managing partner Lee Hockensmith said the move was made for several reasons, most notably the new lot’s visibility from Interstate 29.

Platte City businessman George McMillian opened a Dodge dealership on old U.S. 71 Highway just south of Platte City in the fall of 1968 at the same location. Concrete footings from the old dealership’s building still exist on the lot.

“You can’t miss us now,” said Hockensmith, who has more than 20 years of experience in automobile sales and dealership management in the KC metro area. “We are right here at the entrance to Platte City. We think this is a marvelous location for our dealership.”

Nearly 46 years ago to the month, another automobile dealership made a similar decision.

Platte City businessman George McMillian opened a new Dodge dealership at the same location in 1968 on what was then U.S. Highway 71. McMillian Dodge was the only business on that route, which eventually became Prairie View Road and was at the time almost 2 miles outside the city limits of Platte City.

Other local businesses were located mostly in downtown Platte City, making McMillian’s move a little risky at the time, but the dealership was prosperous for many years before it closed in the mid-70s. A case can be made that the dealership helped lay the groundwork for the massive development that has occurred in the area during the past two decades.

“We still have the (concrete) footings from the old Dodge dealership on the north end of our lot here,” he said. “It’s come full circle.”

Platte City-Airport Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram bought the land and the 11,000-plus square feet building on it from Heritage Tractor, which had occupied the spot for many years. Heritage Tractor took over the former Dodge dealership space on Main Street.

Since the move into the new building, Platte City-Airport Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram has already expanded and made changes. The lot now includes more than 140 cars and trucks, and the dealership’s service department has been upgraded and expanded to accommodate service and maintenance to all makes and models of vehicles.

Hockensmith said the dealership, which currently employs 14 people, is committed to the Platte City area.

“When you buy five acres and put it on the highway, you are committed and that’s certainly the case with us, “he said. “”We want to be everybody’s store in this area and we plan on being a business anchor here for a long time.”

Hockensmith said more expansion is on the way in the next 24 months.

A 3,000-square feet showroom addition is planned, as well as a facelift to the current building to conform to Chrysler specifications. Most of the acreage not paved and fitted for infrastructure will be, and the dealership hopes to eventually be home to 450-500 vehicles.

Hockensmith said the Platte City area is a perfect fit for Platte City-Airport Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram’s ownership group, which is based in Sedalia and owns three franchise Chrysler stores total around the state.

“Our owners are small-town folks from Sedalia and Nevada,” Hockensmith said. “We like the hometown feel and the lifestyle in this area. It’s a great area and a good opportunity for business expansion.”

Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt said the City is excited that Platte City Airport Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram is investing in the business community.

“The return of a Dodge dealership to the location of the former McMillian Dodge is testimony to the strength of Platte City’s commercial community,” Offutt said. “Platte City Airport Dodge’s investment in its brick and mortar footprint as well as its inventory reflects a strong business presence and commitment to their customer base and pride in operation.”