Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 30, 2001

Auto 'choice' dealership comes to HL

By Lynda Jensen

A new auto dealer just located two months ago to Howard Lake, with a familiar face, Auto Choice, owned by the Ron and Gene Gilbert family, and their son, Jason.

The Gilberts are longtime residents, but the auto dealership is something new along Highway 12.

The business offers used cars, along with a locating service for vehicles, Gilbert said. What this means is that someone can ask him to look for a specific vehicle with a certain mileage, and for a small fee, Gilbert will find it for them, he said.

"I can buy used stuff the same as the other big dealerships," he said. "They go to the same auctions." He doesn't have the overhead that larger dealerships have, either, he said.

Auto Choice was previously located a mile out of town for two months near the city compost site, but the Gilberts decided to rent from Tom Kutz, formerly where Tom's Collision used to be.

The Highway 12 construction work had a hand in the change - since Steve Koosman, who used to have a repair service, decided to give up his business last year after learning from the state that he would lose the access to his two garages.

The strip in front of the shop will be turned into a right turn lane, Gilbert added.

Originally, Auto Choice used to be located in Waite Park across from the Ultimate Sports Bar, outside of St. Cloud and was operated by Jason, he said. The business was along Division and offered more cars.

Competing in St. Cloud was tough, since it is chock full of dealerships, such as Gilleland and Tenvoorde Ford, he said.

Besides, the Gilberts love Howard Lake, he said. Nothing would tear them away from the small town they love, he added.

In fact, the Gilberts tried to relocate to California once in 1974. "We absolutely hated the hectic lifestyle," he said. They moved back in six months.

Gilbert still works full time for Munson Lakes Nutrition, as he has for the past 25 years, he said.

Auto Choice's office hours are: Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cell phone number to contact him is (320) 492-8600.

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