Sax remodels downtown building into custom and detailing center
When Sax Motor Co. left downtown Dickinson three years ago for a shiny new dealership in the north business district, owner Pam Kostelecky was adamant about keeping the unique and recognizable brick building in the company.
“We were approached by many entrepreneurial and semi-entrepreneurial ideas of how people saw this space,” she said.
Some envisioned the building — on the corner of Third Avenue West and Villard Street, the two most heavily trafficked streets in Dickinson — as a brewery or a restaurant. Others saw a prominent commercial space with two floors, offices and lots of storage space.
Kostelecky, however, said she couldn’t let the building and its history transfer to someone else.
So, when Sax Motor began running out of space it needed for detailing and customization work at its new dealership and shop off 21st Street West, the company saw an opportunity at the place they had called home since 1952.
And with that, Sax Customs was born.
“It was just good timing,” said Christian Kostelecky, Sax Motor’s general manager and Pam’s son.
The amount of business brought in by the oil boom left Sax with less shop space than it initially planned in its new building, and that demand necessitated by oilfield companies and those related to the industry for add-ons such as toolboxes, grill guards and even more durable floor mats led to the opening of Sax Customs, Christian Kostelecky said.
While that business has obviously tempered with the oil industry’s slowdown, it’s still a big part of what Sax Customs has been doing since it opened in November 2014.
“I love it. It’s really nice,” Sax Customs Manager James Rixen. “To have the space we have now, compared to the space we had in the old building — we’ve got a lot more space.”
In the shop area, dozens of boxes sat ready to be unpacked on a recent weekday afternoon while WeatherTech floor mats were stacked in the basement storage. New shipments of those, which Rixen said is one of the most popular items, come in more than once a week.
There’s a detailing center on the southwest side of the shop, where used cars the dealership acquires via trade-ins are sent to be cleaned before being put on the lot. The only major change inside is that a wall was constructed for a car wash.
Dale Johnson, who laughs and says he can’t count the number of years he has worked for Sax, spends most of his day installing bedliners.
The Sax Customs shop remodel gave him two spray-on bedliner booths to work in, and he’s constantly doing just that. Johnson said someone can do two pickup bedliners in one day,
“if you’re fast, if you’re at it.”
Pam Kostelecky calls Johnson “the best in the business,” before smiling and admitting her obvious bias. She may not be far off though. Johnson is serious about his craft.
“You don’t want to rush anything because then you start getting sloppy and the workmanship isn’t there,” he said. “The end result, if you have to redo something, it’s not worth it.”
Pam Kostelecky said she’s proud that the building has found a new use, since she believed the dealership and the town had mutually outgrown the space.
“We needed to have customer convenience for getting in and out of the building,” she said. “The community had grown so much that we were having challenges meeting customer needs at this location.”
Sax sold its sales building across Villard Street to American West Real Estate, but kept the storage warehouse and parking area it leases from BNSF Railway.
Outside, the building has undergone a slight redesign, with a new brick exterior meant to better blend in with downtown.
“It gives it some dimension and, I think, a little more prominence on that corner,” Pam Kostelecky said.
KO Construction did the bulk of the work, she said, and even helped remodel the upstairs offices, which come complete with a separate entrance, into a new space that the Kosteleckys plan on leasing.
“We tried to keep as much original as we could,” Pam Kostelecky said.