Guilford Saab, who first opened their doors in 1979, closed them for the final time this Friday, Jan. 18. In a letter from co-owner Nancy Elderbaum, she thanks Guilford Saab customers for their loyalty over the years, delivering the news of the close with 'great difficulty and sadness.'
In the letter, Elderbaum points to the the takeover of SAAB by GM as turning 'more smiles into frowns, and the recent and final blow to the wonderful brand came when all ties were cut to the retailers.' She also notes the passing of her husband, Phil, this past December, after losing his battle with cancer.
Susan Wiedmann, owner of Land Rover Guilford, and Phil's business partner, talked about Phil's enthusiasm for his work. "Phil had a passion for the SAAB brand and for his customers," Wiedmann told Guilford Patch. "Even as he was going into treatments, he was still saying 'we need to take care of our customers and make sure they are happy.'"
"The response we have had from SAAB customers in the wake of Phil's passing has been overwhelming, it makes tears come to your eyes," Wiedmann says. "He and Nancy lived in Guilford and have taken such pride in this business, it is so sad to see what has come to pass."
Like Nancy Elderbaum, Wiedmann also cites the take over of GM as a huge blow to the business. "When GM took over, their hands were really tied," said Wiedmann. "They had to get rid of all the new cars, and then when SAAB went bankrupt, and vendors couldn't provide parts, it made things even more difficult. Plus, Guilford SAAB is such a large building, there's a big overhead, so it became a really tough situation."
Even though Wiedmann and Phil were partners, Guilford Saab's closing does not impact Land Rover Guilford in any way, and the company is still going strong. "We share a parcel of land, but we are totally separate," Wiedmann said. "But we want to take care SAAB's customers who live in the area, so for routine services like oil changes, etc. we have two technicians on staff that are available for those services."
The future of the Guilford SAAB space is currently undetermined. "There are a few ideas being brought up, but nothing is set in stone," concluded Wiedmann. "Right now our main concern is to take care of the customers, that is what Phil would have wanted."
Nancy Elderbaum's letter reads as follows:
It is with great difficulty and sadness that I write you this letter. After 34 years of business, Guilford Saab is forced to close our doors. As you may or may not know, my husband Phil lost his battle to cancer on December 29th. It wasn't without a fight and a major effort on his part to try to be at the store every day to talk with customers and to support his employees right until the end.
Phil opened Guilford Saab in 1979 with a passion for the Saab brand and a vision to take the best care of all Saab owners and enthusiasts. He built a strong team to accomplish what he set out to do with great success. He enjoyed living in Guilford and was proud as he drove around the shoreline towns seeing all of the SAAB's on the road, customers waving and smiling as they passed by.
As all of you have experienced, the takeover of SAAB by GM turned more smiles into frowns, and the recent and final blow to the wonderful brand came when all ties were cut to the retailers. Being put in that position put an end to all new car sales, it limited the parts availability and completely stopped reimbursement for warranty work. During that time there were many discussions and sleepless nights as to whether we close the doors and stop the frustration and financial burden, or try to continue on with the business to take care of our very loyal SAAB customers. Phil's determination to continue to service all of his customers might not have been the best business decision, but he told me it made the customers happy and that was most important to him. Though the financial position we were put in strained the business, staying open made him happy and I wanted to help to keep that spark in him as long as I could.
Our last day of business will be Friday, January 18th. We have been in contact with Charlie Secor at Secor SAAB in New London to help you with your future SAAB needs. Secor Saab is able to perform all the warranty work and also provide you with exceptional service. If you have questions or comments, I would encourage you to contact Phil's partner Susan at Land Rover Guilford, who has offered to discuss options, answer questions, as well as provide services and routine maintenance for your SAAB.
Again, as difficult as it has been to watch a wonderful brand and our 34 year history come to end, I send you this letter to let you know that we all thank you for your continued friendship and support over those 34 years. Phil was so proud to represent SAAB and though he knew quite some time ago that the end was near, he did everything he could to keep the momentum going, his team working and his customers happy. I feel that he accomplished what he set out to do regardless of all of the issues he faced along the way. I can't thank you enough for being such a large part of our lives, with all of the memories and friendships that have been established over the years. I will cherish them forever and will smile every time I pass a SAAB on the road.
Sincerely, Nancy Elderbaum