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Local dealership reacts to continued push for changes to law requiring lots be closed

Auto dealers not sold on Sunday car sales

DeKALB – Dan Gailey, 55, has been selling cars for Tom Sparks Automotive of DeKalb since 1991, and is adamant that allowing dealerships to open on Sundays would not help him sell any more cars than a normal six-day sales week.

Since 1982, auto dealerships in Illinois have been required to be closed on Sundays. State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, proposed Senate Bill 22 in the Illinois General Assembly at the end of March. The proposal would allow for dealerships to choose their six days for sales, with Sunday being an option. It's the sixth year in a row that a change to the state's rules on Sunday auto sales has been proposed – and like past attempts, it appears it has little chance of going anywhere.

In part, that's because many auto dealers are behind the close-on-Sunday requirement.

"No one is going to buy any more cars," Gailey said Friday. "But you're going to take your overhead expenses, utilities, heat, gas, payroll for non-commissioned people, and you're going to lose money because your overhead is going to go up."

Gailey said Tom Sparks Auto usually sells around 40 cars a month, and customers actually enjoy the one day a week where dealerships are not open so they can browse without pressure from salesmen.

"People love not being pestered," Gailey said. "Tom [Sparks] used to live right on the house that's on the property, and he told me one time 'What do you think the busiest day of the week is?' I said, 'Well, it's Saturday,' and he said, 'Nope, Sunday because I'll look out the window and this place is full of people not being bugged.'"

Oberweis said he posed the question of why car sales were banned on Sundays when he was first elected and has wanted to keep addressing the issue since then. As a believer in free enterprise, he said, he thought it should be up to individual owners of when they could operate their business, especially considering religious reasons like not being able to conduct business on the Jewish Shabbat on Saturdays and Fridays being a holy day in Islam.

"I think that’s just fundamentally wrong," Oberweis said.

Illinois is one of 13 states that ban Sunday car sales, and many of them are in the Midwest. Others include Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine. Sunday sales are limited to certain hours or specific counties in Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Maryland, Utah and Texas.

Ruben Perez, business manager with Tom Sparks, said consumers will purchase vehicles regardless of the day of week.

"The demand is not going to go away because you're closed on Sundays," Perez said. "If you need a car, you're going to buy it. The demand is always going to be there."

Tim Schwartz, 46, was test-driving a Chevrolet Impala Friday and agreed with Gailey's opinion.

"There's just no reason to do it," Schwartz said. "I guess you could call me old-fashioned, but to me, business is conducted Monday through Friday. I make it a point to take the weekends off."

Gailey said the continued push by Oberweis for legislation that dealers may not want is a sign of the changing times.

"When I was a kid, everything was closed on Sunday," Gailey said. "In a very short amount of time, look what's happened to our society. Why can't we just close things down like we used to?"

Gailey said there's also concern that Sunday sales could impact business among competitors.

"If it was a law and it was optional to be open on Sunday, what do you think is going to happen?" Gailey pondered. "If only one guy is open, then the guy next to him has to be open, too. Right now, we're all on the same playing field."

Shaw Media Reporter Katie Finlon contributed to this story.

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