Sunset Country Ford will have a new owner starting in January when Nick Beyak returns to Fort Frances.
As first reported in last Thursday’s Daily Bulletin, Beyak, 33, the son of Lynn Beyak and the late Tony Beyak, currently owns Dryden GM—and will continue to operate both businesses.
“I am definitely looking forward to moving back home,” Beyak said Friday from Dryden.
“I consider that area my home,” he noted.
Beyak lived in town from 1990-2000, during which time his parents owned Causeway Pontiac-Buick-GMC Ltd. Before that, they ran Windy Bridge Lodge, a tourist camp about 20 miles north of Rainy River, for 13 years.
“It’s home . . . and I have missed the area,” Beyak reiterated.
But Beyak stressed the decision to buy Sunset Country Ford from Dan Henderson also was based on several other factors.
“Ford has some great products; the corporation itself seems to be strong and its products are strong,” he noted.
“And I know the community. I am familiar with it,” he added. “I feel there’s a lot of opportunity in the community with what’s going on economically in Atikokan and in the Emo area.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of growth in the area.”
Beyak said he looked at the marketplace and felt he could step in and provide some serious competition.
“I saw, frankly, a gap in customer service with the car dealerships in town there and I think that people deserve better, that we can do something and raise the level of customer expectations and customer service,” he remarked, adding he will do his best to do just that.
Henderson, who was business partners with Darryl Burton from 1995-2003, when he bought Burton out and become the sole owner of Sunset Country Ford, said he’s happy to see Beyak take over the reins.
“When I came here, I had a 10-year plan,” he noted.
“It usually takes four or five years to find a qualified buyer for a Ford franchise, so a couple years ago I started putting some feelers out to start working on it so I could head for retirement at age 60,” the 56-year-old Henderson explained.
“It happened a couple years sooner than I had really planned on, but it’s not easy to find qualified people like Nick that are capable of buying a dealership,” he stressed.
“So we’re moving forward.”
Henderson said he thinks Beyak is “the perfect candidate” for the local dealership.
“I think he’ll do a wonderful job here for the community of Fort Frances, for the Ford Motor Company, and for all his employees,” he lauded.
“I couldn’t have found a better candidate—there’s no doubt in my mind.
“He’s a local guy and he loves this area,” Henderson added. “I think his intention is to spend the rest of his life here and own this dealership.
“He’s a bright young man.”
Henderson moved here from Thunder Bay, and will return to his home town once Beyak takes over.
“I am going to take some time off and consider my future. I don’t have any plans to work right now,” he noted.
“I am not ruling it out, though. I am 56, not 106.”
But Henderson said he’ll miss the community.
“From the bottom of my heart, I think Fort Frances is a wonderful place and I am going to miss it tremendously,” he remarked.
“I made a lot of great friends here and I am sad to go.”
Beyak, meanwhile, will be moving here from Dryden, with his wife, Claire, and two children, Emily, five, and Anthony, three, to join him later next year once their daughter finishes her school year.
Beyak said when his father came to Fort Frances in 1990, he brought some fresh ideas with him—and now he hopes to do the same.
“In 1990, all of the dealers on the lots had six or seven kinds of vehicles to choose from,” he recalled.
“He really changed how the car business was done when he came by adding a lot of selection and focusing on the customer, and we’re looking to do that again by coming down there, focusing on customer service, and getting a large selection of new and used vehicles for the customer to choose from.”
He later added: “I am really excited to get back home and do some business.”
Beyak said he will be joined at Sunset Country Ford by Terry Mueller, who was Tony Beyak’s right-hand man at Causeway.
At Sunset Country Ford, Mueller will be running fixed operations (parts and body shop) to start, then get into other areas of the business at time goes on.
“I am hoping, in the next three years, we can add 10 jobs to [Sunset Country Ford] by growing it,” Beyak said. “They’ll be good-paying jobs, I think.
“We’ll be adding a salesperson as soon as we can . . . so we’re hoping to add some jobs to the community, too.”
Beyak noted the dealership also will undergo some renovations over the next few years.
Beyak has the automotive business in his blood. In 1996, he went away to Georgian College to study automotive marketing, then attended Northwood University in Michigan for a year to study dealership operation.
After getting his degree in business administration, Beyak worked with his father at Causeway Pontiac-Buick-GMC Ltd. here for about four months.
The family then moved to Dryden, where they owned and operated Dryden GM. Beyak worked with his father there for about a year and-a-half until he passed away unexpectedly in April, 2002.
When Beyak became the dealer principal of Dryden GM at age 24, he was the youngest GM dealer in Canada.
“GM was good to me at the time,” he said. “I was 24, and they gave me a chance to run it.
“I took care of what needed to be done.
“It was tough, losing my dad, my best friend and the guy who taught me everything,” he admitted. “But we did it with a great staff and a focus on customer service.”
Beyak credited a large part of his success to work ethic, recalling that even as a kid, he was doing some kind of job at Windy Point Lodge.
“For my seventh birthday, I got a brand-new Sears Craftsman lawnmower,” he chuckled. “That’s was birthday present.
“I didn’t know any different,” he added. “That’s the way it was.
“That work ethic had me here and focused on what needed to be done . . . I like working.”