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Work on the new Park Rapids Ford sign was under way this week. Jim and Tiffany Fankhanel of Bemidji have acquired Park Rapids Ford, formerly Heartland Family Ford. The dealership will be located at the former Park Rapids Chrysler site on Highway 71 south. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Ford dealership opens at former Chrysler site

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Jim and Tiffany Fankhanel of Bemidji have acquired Park Rapids Ford, formerly Heartland Family Ford, with the dealership to be located at the former Park Rapids Chrysler Center on Highway 71 South.

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The Fankhanels purchased Bemidji Chrysler Center in 1999 and the Park Rapids Chrysler Center from Dick Ness a year later. In December 2006, they purchased Honda of Bemidji.

"It was our goal to give customers more choices," Jim Fankhanel said of purchase and servicing of vehicles.

"When this transaction began, we did not want to purchase another building and additional land," Jim Fankhanel explained. "Our goal was to utilize the current staff, facility and location of Park Rapids Chrysler and add Ford to our organization.

"Automobile manufacturers, however, are unwilling to combine franchises as they once did," he said. "When we learned that they would not let Ford and Chrysler be together, we had to make a choice.

"The fact that we have Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep in Bemidji and we can accommodate Park Rapids Chrysler customers for sales at our Bemidji store made the decision easier," he said.

"We can continue to service Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles at our Park Rapids location using our current technicians. We think Ford will be a great addition to our family of dealerships," he said. "Now people have the choice of a Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Honda."

The dealerships, he said, strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction, both in sales and service. "We have been Five Star at both our Chrysler locations and at our Honda store, we are EXCELL validated." This is an internal award Honda has for dealers who achieve top customer satisfaction.

The car centers employ 64, including 18 at the Park Rapids site.

"We hope our current customers are excited about the change and we are looking forward to meeting all the current Ford customers in the area," he said.

Park Rapids Ford will continue to offer loaner vehicles for service customers or they may wait in a remodeled customer lounge.

Park Rapids Ford is in the process of remodeling the interior of the store, including wall coverings, doors, trim, windows, ceiling and floors. Expected completion is in the spring of 2010.

Jim Fankhanel completed five years of college including one year at Northwood Institutes Automotive Program in Michigan. He has 20 years of dealership experience.

Tiffany Fankhanel graduated from Bemidji State University with a degree in business and finance. She also attended the National Auto Dealer Academy in McLean, Va., graduating in 2005. She has 15 years of dealership experience.

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