Now full of shiny new cars and the scent of custom leather, the building that houses Erhard BMW of Bloomfield Hills once featured bowling balls and the smells of Chinese food.
Before well-known local resident Erhard Dahm purchased the building in 1987 to turn it into a dealership, the location was a bowling alley next to a Chinese restaurant.
Dahm owned Erhard BMW in Bloomfield Hills until he retired about 10 years ago. Now his daughters -- Angie Dahm-Hovey and Winfred Dahm -- and a silent partner have taken over the business.
Dahm and his wife, Gretchen, immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1958. Between 1960 and 1962, Dahm opened two gas and repair stations in metro Detroit. The first Erhard BMW opened in 1964 in Farmington Hills.
After purchasing the current location, Dahm renovated the entire building, which finished in 1990.
"We're very, very fortunate and proud to not only have this brand but to be in this community at the corner of Maple and Telegraph," said Leslie Rhodes, marketing manager.
The full-service dealership has a sister BMW dealership that opened in 2003 in Farmington Hills, a Land Rover store that opened in 1997 in Farmington Hills and AutoMark Collision Center that opened in 2004 in Farmington Hills.
"Most of our clientele is within a five-mile radius from the store," Rhodes said.
Customer, community connections
Erhard BMW stays connected with its customers in the ways customers prefer, she said, whether it's email, texting or over the phone.
"We have over 9,000 visitors to the website each month," she said about the Bloomfield Hills location's site.
Rhodes said the internet is an equalizer for competition, meaning shoppers do much of the research on their own and are looking for answers to their detailed questions.
"They expect us to be the experts for their automotive needs," she said about the customers.
Before he retired, Dahm was always involved in the business, Rhodes said.
"He's just very charismatic," she said. "He always stood in the service center, greeting customers."
Erhard BMW stays involved in the community by holding the Susan G. Komen "Drive for the Cure," the annual fundraiser for On My Own of Michigan, a group that helps mentally challenged adults, and organizing clothing and toy drives for Orchards Family Services.
"We also let them come in here and host their dinners," she said.