Parker: Big 4 Motors marks 40 years with new home at Taza Park on Tsuut'ina Nation

Wood Automotive Group relocates Big 4 Motors into Taza Park on Tsuut’ina Nation

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Gerry Wood is proud that his Wood Automotive Group has celebrated 40 years in business, but his Big 4 Motors that he purchased in 1992 traces its history even further back.

It began selling cars in the downtown as Rodeo Motors in 1979, an American Motors dealership selling brands that included Rambler, Hudson and Jeep — the city’s original dealer. AMC was purchased by Chrysler and the dealership was relocated to Macleod Trail and renamed Big 4 Motors, after the founders of the Stampede.

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It remained there, across the road from the Woodridge Ford Lincoln — since moved to 24th Street S.E. in Douglasdale Business Park — until the recent relocation to Taza Park on Tsuut’ina First Nation lands.

Wood and his team had been looking at the new development project between Tsuut’ina Nation and Candrel for several years, and as first in line was able to acquire a 95-year lease on almost 30 acres of prime land just to the south of Grey Eagle Casino.

The Macleod Trail building and 1.89-acre parcel of land was sold to a private investor, who may lease it to an automotive-related company but is looking at the long term when Fisher Park is redeveloped.

Designed by Ric Balbi Architect and built by Barjac Construction Management, the new Big 4 Motors has opened as a much larger 60,000-square-foot dealership on 7.8 acres. The second floor holds administrative offices and staff amenities over two distinct storefront showrooms with space for 12 cars and trucks. One features Jeep products, and the larger element shows off the range of Chrysler Dodge Ram vehicles.

According to general manager Rob Coleman, a key feature of the design is the interior three-lane drive-thru service lanes.

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“During the cold snap, customers were very happy to be able to drop off their vehicle inside and pick it up in the delivery lane in the warm,” he says.

His 34 working bays will allow for the dealership to grow the service side of the business that can boast of many technicians among the 75 employees with multiple years of experience at Big 4 Motors — one with 43 years.

Coleman has been in the automotive business his whole career, beginning at the dealership his father owned in the Crowsnest Pass. Then, after seven years working with Chrysler in Drumheller, he moved to Calgary and was delighted to be offered a position with the Wood Automotive Group 14 years ago.

The opening of a brand-new dealership has been an exciting and rewarding one. Coleman’s mother was a teacher with the Kainai Nation, so he has a good sense of Indigenous culture. Before the move to Tsuut’ina lands every member of his staff attended cultural training from Holly Fortier, a Cree/Dene from the Fort McKay First Nation, who owns a company specializing in Indigenous awareness training. Coleman says he is also pleased that he was able to recruit Larson Starlight as a salesman, who is also helping other staff to understand the Nation’s culture and help build relationships.

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At a pipe ceremony two years ago with elders and council members of Tsuut’ina Nation, Coleman was thrilled when an elder took him aside and called Taza Park “The New Buffalo,” adding they would “walk together, not behind or ahead, but with one another.”

Gerry Wood is executive chair and founder of Wood Automotive Group, supported by his two sons — Cailean, vice-president of sales and marketing, and Rory, vice-president of parts and service,

Today it owns six dealerships and four automotive-related companies. But big plans are for more Wood dealerships at Taza Park, where its new Volkswagen dealership is under construction.

Notes:

Charcut, one of Western Canada’s most acclaimed restaurants, is planning to open a second location this spring in University District. The 2,800-square-foot space is on the ground floor of Alt Hotels, part of the Germain Group, on the corner of University Avenue and McLaurin Street, N.W. Led by co-chefs and co-owners Connie DeSousa and John Jackson, “The expansion of Charcut is an exciting opportunity for us to grow our Calgary community connections into the northwest, spread our love of local ingredients and expand our dedicated team in a vibrant part of our cherished city,” says DeSousa.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]

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