5 Corners has added car brands while retaining community commitment
Automobile styles, standard equipment and even colors have changed dramatically over the past 75 years, but one thing has remained a constant.
New and used vehicles continue to roll off the lot at 5 Corners Dodge at the intersection of Highway 60 and Washington Avenue in Cedarburg.
Through the years, the dealership has added several vehicle lines — Chrysler, Jeep and Ram — to its name, but the commitment to matching customers with the right set of wheels remains unchanged.
The business traces its roots to 1940, when Ted and Rose Demler opened Standard Service across the street from its current location.
In the years to follow, they added a car and truck repair business, as well as a mini-mart.
Paul and Phil Demler opened a GMC Truck dealership in 1966, and the family purchased an existing Dodge dealership in 1983.
Somewhere along that march of time, Mark Demler, who now co-owns the business with Roman Weninger, began working at the car dealership.
“I think I started working here when I was about 9. I didn’t really have a choice at the time, and I just stayed here,” Demler said.
He represents the third generation of the Demler family to be involved in running the dealership.
Weninger’s arrival at 5 Corners Dodge was less matter-of-fact.
He grew up on a family farm in Washington County.
“There were nine of us kids on the farm and not enough work to support us, so I went looking for a job,” Weninger said.
That was during the recession of the 1980s, and jobs were hard to come by.
“I was making deliveries from a truck and wanted a new vehicle. After I sold the old truck, I learned I could make a lot more money selling trucks than I could make driving them,” Weninger said.
He noted his only previous sales experience was selling polka albums, going door to door.
“The sales were disappointing,” Weninger said.
In 1981, desperate for a job, he applied for a job at 5 Corners Dodge.
“When I was hired for a sales job, the interest rate on new car loans was 18% and used car loans were going for 23%. The manager told me ‘This is as bad as it is going to get,’” Weninger recalled.
He quickly became one of the top salesmen at the dealership.
The art of selling trucks and cars has evolved over time, largely because of the infusion of technology.
“Customers come in a lot more knowledgeable about the products, thanks to research they can do on the Internet and even on their cell phones,” Weninger said.
“People usually know exactly what model they want and what the going price of a vehicle is. What hasn’t changed is their desire to haggle over price.”
Advances in computers have changed how the dealership does business as well.
“We have a lot more business, but when I started there were three people working in the billing department and that is the same number we have today,” Weninger said.
The same story applies to the parts department.
Overall, he said the dealership has about 14 full-time and 50 part-time employees.
Weninger said technology has played a prominent role in making vehicles stand out in a crowded field.
“You may think a car is a car or a truck is a truck, but when a Chrysler 300 or a Ram 1500 or a Jeep Cherokee comes down the road, they stand out,” he said.
Fuel efficiency, horsepower and torque all become equal measuring sticks for the new breed of vehicles.
Weninger said today’s buyers are as concerned about miles per gallon as they are about power.
Although the dealership’s service department may not work on many cars from the earliest days of the business, Demler said “for sure” we work on cars from the 1960s.
“We don’t discriminate in the age or make of the cars we work on,” he said.
Indicative of the dealership’s community involvement, for the past two years it has been a lead sponsor of the Ozaukee County Fair — which is held just down the road.
To commemorate how 5 Corners Dodge has been a part of the local automotive scene for decades, the dealership and Paul Demler have created a $20,000 scholarship fund in celebration of the anniversary and to support tech education at Grafton and Cedarburg high schools.
The scholarship reflects the dealership’s ongoing support of automotive programs at both schools.
To broaden the anniversary festivities, a Grill and Chill celebration is planned for Thursday through Saturday, June 11 to 15 at the dealership. Hamburgers, brats and ice cream will be given away, and drawings will be held for five Weber grills.
Image information: 5 CORNERS DODGE Chrysler Jeep in Cedarburg can trace its business roots to 1940, when Ted and Rose Demler started Standard Service. The dealership is now run by (top photo, from left) Mark Demler and Roman Weninger.
Photos by Mark Jaeger