Russell Mazda auto dealership closes in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Russell Mazda, one of two Mazda dealerships in Pinellas County, has closed.

Owner Russell Zaralban declined to answer questions Friday as he posted a note on the dealership's door directing inquiries to a post office box.

"I'm 75 years old, and I'm retiring, that's all it is," he said. "I wish I could give you a story."

The dealership is on the west side of U.S. 19, just south of Drew Street.

Early this month, Mazda North American Operations reported March sales of 21,974 cars and trucks, down 33 percent from last year, and year-to-date sales of 53,795 cars and trucks, down 31 percent.

Dave Fogel, vice president and general manager of Tyrone Square Mazda in St. Petersburg, said Zaralban closed in the past few weeks. Tyrone Square Mazda remains healthy, he said.

"We're not going anywhere," Fogel said. "Our doors are open, and we will be around."

Mike Mathis, general manager of Ed Morse Auto Plaza in Port Richey, a Mazda dealer, said he suspects the poor economy brought on the closure. He said his dealership is seeing an uptick in business from Mazda owners.

"I hate to see anybody go out of business," Mathis said, "but we are sort of the beneficiary."

Russell Mazda isn't the only Tampa Bay area dealership closing its doors in recent days.

Just last week, Tampa's Lokey Truck & 4X4 Center on Dale Mabry Highway, north of Interstate 275, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In its federal court filing in Tampa on Thursday, Lokey, an Isuzu dealer, estimated assets and liabilities of up to $10 million each.

A sign greeting visitors to Lokey Truck advised that the business was closed, effective this past Wednesday.

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

Russell Mazda auto dealership closes in Clearwater 04/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 10, 2009 8:16pm]

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