A Dealership at the Heart of a Town

It's a picture of small town America, planted in the middle of central Illinois corn country. A place where the local dairy queen is the social center and buying a GM car from Rust Chevrolet is a ritual - until now.

"When I start to talk to people about new cars, it starts to hit me, it's going to come to an end," said Karen Rust Walder, the owner of Rust Chevrolet. "It's sad."

A family business since 1916, Rust Chevrolet is one of the 1,100 dealers forced to close under GM's restructuring plan, reports CBS News correspondent Terrell Brown. Walder said that harsh reality is beginning to sink in.

"Maybe I could have gotten out there and hammered out more sales, but you know, that's not me," Walder said.

Mayor Rick Baier said that the dealership is very important to the town.

Rust Chevrolet is Cissna Park's largest source of revenue. With 100 cars sold a year, it generates half the town's annual sales tax, $50,000 -that's 20 percent of the town's budget. Without that money, Baier says the town's 800 residents will see cuts in services, businesses will be hurt, and, there will be more fallout.

"We could lose families, "Baier said. "They might go elsewhere to find employment."

GM's decision to close this dealership isn't just about the economic impact on this town. This dealership ahs been here for 94 years, and to the residents that live here, that's personal.

"I'm done," said Larry Hofbauer, a Cissna Park resident. "I'll never buy another General Motors product."

Hofbauer has lived in Cissna Park for more than 40 years and has bought all his cars from Rust Chevrolet. He says GM's decision to eliminate the dealership is a slap in the face .

"GM could care very little about Cissna park, we are just a small dot on a map," Hofbauer said.

"We would have never thought so many people cared," Walder said.

GM has reversed its decision to force more than 50 dealers to close, but Karen Walder says if emphasizing the bottom line over customer satisfaction is what it takes to remain open, she'd rather shut down.

"I think we did the best we could," Walder said. "I don't have any apologies. No regrets."

Just 94 years of memories and an uncertain future for one small American town.
  • Terrell Brown

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