Denny Hecker Dealerships:  Everything Must Go

Denny Hecker Dealerships: Everything Must Go

Denny’s in jail, but some of his dealerships still await their fate.

Fallen auto mogul Denny Hecker remains in federal prison—currently in Littleton, Colo.—after being sentenced in 2011 for bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Back home, most of his 26 former car dealerships have found life after Denny.

The most unusual rebirth? Two partners have a plan to revive a long-vacant dealership in Oak Park Heights and turn it into a gun range and sporting goods store. Barry Schalkle says that he and Mark Kamas are assembling investors and hope to open the Minnesota Shooting Academy in fall 2014. The Oak Park Heights City Council approved the plan in October, but the group has yet to acquire the site, which is near the intersection of Highways 36 and 5.

“They were very encouraging,” Schalkle says of city officials, “all the way along the line.”

Jim Rock, an executive director with Bloomington-based Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq, is part of the team that has been unloading the bulk of the former Hecker dealerships in Minnesota for Chrysler Financial, Hecker’s primary lender.

“The good ones reopened as car dealerships,” Rock says. For example, Southview Chevrolet in Inver Grove Heights is now Mauer Chevrolet; the ownership group includes Billy Mauer, brother of Twins player Joe.

But the fate of a few sites is still undetermined. Rock says a former dealership in Pine City was sold to the school district for just $30,000. The district has not yet settled on a long-range plan for the site, says superintendent Wayne Gilman. Two former dealerships in Monticello and Eden Prairie, Rock says, remain on the market.

In a deal that Rock was not involved in, Scott County acquired the former Shakopee Chrysler Jeep Dodge, which fittingly became part of a park-and-ride transit hub.

Schalke and Kamas are negotiating with the Excelsior Group, an Eden Prairie-based real estate investor and developer, which acquired the aforementioned Oak Park Heights dealership in January 2013, taking a gamble on the property. Property records show an Excelsior affiliate paid $1.3 million.

“It was probably one of Denny’s nicest buildings,” says Rock. “It was just gorgeous.” Schalkle and Kamas no doubt hope gun owners will feel the same way.