Welcome back to Meetin’ Wheaton Wednesdays! We are sad to say that this will be our last regular edition of Meetin’ Wheaton, but we have had a wonderful time meeting so many of the wonderful people at Wheaton Honda. You can keep an eye out for more editions in the near future, but for now we thought it would be great to end with an edition devoted to Edmonton’s own dealership Wheaton Honda! It seems only right to give our wonderful dealership its own time to shine in the spotlight. We spoke with our very own Warren Cairns to find out more about our great dealership. Read on to find out more about Wheaton Honda from its inception to where we are now.
What was the store called at the very beginning?
It was originally West End Honda. We were located on Jasper Avenue and about 118th street (where Earl’s Tin Palace is located now). It was right around there, right on that spot. It was a much smaller operation than it is now, but the demand for the Civics was unbelievable. It was at the point where the salesperson could take a customer out to Jasper avenue, point, and say “that’s what the green one looks like!” as they drove by.
We opened up in the fall of 1976. I was here from the very beginning. I can’t remember the exact day we opened the doors and sold our first car, though.
What was it afterwards?
We transitioned to a location on the north side of Argyll, just by the train tracks. We were there for probably 6 months (not quite a year) while the location on 34th Avenue, 9503 34th avenue to be exact (where Driving Force is now), was being built. That opened up in 1980, and at that point we changed to Millwoods Honda.
Tell us about Millwoods Honda at that time.
It was about a 9500 square foot facility with only one overhead door. We washed, did PDI, and did service work out of the one small service shop. From detailing to putting in new transmissions, it was all done in the back shop. For a little while there because of inventory amounts, we actually rented part of the south lot too (what is now Fountain Tire) so we could store extra vehicles. Punjab Sweets was actually at Arby’s at one time, so we’d just step over the curb to grab lunch. There was a Chrysler store where the Mitsubishi is now.
When did we move across the street?
In January of 2000 – it was minus 30 degrees when we did the move and it was ridiculously cold. I remember running back and forth across 34th avenue hoping not to get hit by a car. We would drive each vehicle across and then run back to get another – I nearly froze out a lung doing that. It was a growing opportunity – the land we are on now used to be owned by Chrysler of Canada and it was time to expand and grow. So we built this building from the ground up when the Irwins used to own the company.
Tell us about the transition to becoming a Wheaton store.
The Irwins sold the dealership to the Wheatons. They were a local family, born and raised here, but most of their business and family took them out to the west coast. They didn’t really have many ties left to the city anymore, so that kind of facilitated the sale. That happened in May of 2009, and we made the name change official in May of 2012.
Even before the change, we had a lot of the same people working here then that we do now. Joan upstairs was here. Chris Huffman was here. Hockoon Yeap, Rick Kana, Eric Malkewich, and Emil Uniat were all here. We still have a lot of the same team for sure. Our old General Manager Glen retired, which brought in Ted. Yeap became service manager, Eric became parts manager, and now we’re pretty much just the happy family that you see now.
We expanded our service department to add extra bays on the north end. That huge Used Car building expansion happened pretty recently too. We’re in good standing with the BBB and we’ve won the consumer choice award for lord knows how many years. We’ve blended some of the old with some of the new, and we are continuing to transition like Honda is too. When it comes down to it, there are good solid people, a good solid dealership, a super product, and a future so bright that Vu’s gotta wear shades. *laughs*
That’s Wheaton Honda’s story! We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about our Edmonton dealership’s history and about how we have grown over the years. We definitely wouldn’t be where we are today without the devotion of our wonderful customers, so we are happy to share information about Wheaton Honda with you all. You have truly made this all possible, and at its core that is what Meetin’ Wheaton Wednesdays has been about, sharing this place with all of you.
We cannot put into words how great it has been to share Meetin’ Wheaton Wednesdays with all of you. We have heard some great stories and fun facts, and best of all we have got to know some of the best people around. We hope to bring back Meetin’ Wheaton Wednesdays posts here and there to share more with you, but for now we will send our favorite blog series off into the sunset. This has been Meetin’ Wheaton Wednesdays.