Call Carl auto-care centers, a Washington institution for 63 years, will soon be getting a face lift.
The assets of the group of Washington area auto-care centers were recently purchased by KM Inc. for more than $1 million. KM is owned by former Call Carl president Konrad Murrer.
Murrer's purchase of the leasing rights to Call Carl's six active Exxon gasoline distributorships helped safeguard the jobs of 75 current employes, some of whom, Murrer said, have been with the company for 35 years. At one time 12 Carl Call stations employed 140 people in the Washington metro area.
Leasing rights to the other stations were sold to raise capital to give four of the five principal stockholders a return on their investment. Murrer is the fifth shareholder.
"The real estate [at the other stations] had appreciated to the point that it was no longer economical to sell gas," Murrer said.
"We just didn't want to work anymore and Mr. Murrer did," explained Albert Branson, Call Carl's treasurer for 27 years. Several of the stockholders "including myself are getting on in years," Branson said, and wanted access to the money tied up in Call Carl. Former company chairman William Herrmann retired in August at age 72.
KM Inc. officially took over management of the stations on Sept. 1.
Exxon retail district manager Dick Klein said Call Carl is unusual because the stations have been managed by the same company for 63 years.
"They've been successful," Klein said, "but many dealers haven't. . . . We've found that it's difficult to run a business on an absentee basis . . . you have to have tight controls on inventory and employes."
In many ways, it is to Exxon's advantage not to sell the stations separately. They are among the most profitable in the Washington area, Klein said, and "it is definitely to the company's advantage to have someone managing the stations who you have relied on for years."
Furthurmore, all of the Call Carl outlets are what Exxon calls "century stations." Exxon reviews each station individually, Klein said, and leases on any outlet that is not expected to be profitable by the year 2000, the turn of the century, will not be renewed. The remaining Exxon retail outlets are designated as "century stations" and will be remodeled at Exxon's expense, Klein said.
All of the Call Carl stations will be undergoing some form of structural or cosmetic renovation before 1985, he said.
The new stations feature security booths for cashiers and digital gasoline pumps that display both the discounted cash or credit-card total for each purchase.
Murrer said he also plans to expand some of the stations if property becomes available. According to Klein, one planned expansion -- to the station at the intersection of Connecticut and Nebraska avenues -- has been opposed by neighborhood groups who want the land returned to the community.