Justin Birdnow taking over ownership of Monona dealership

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Justin Birdnow, who came to Monona four years ago in order to work at Birdnow Chevrolet full time, is now buying the store from his family. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

Birdnow Chevrolet has been a Monona staple for nearly two decades, since the Birdnow family bought out Huinker’s Chevrolet in 2003. Four years ago, Justin Birdnow moved to Monona with his wife and three daughters in order to work at the dealership full time.

“We knew we needed to do that because we wanted to be a bigger part of the community,” he said. “And we’re very glad to be here. I’ll never forget how open and friendly people have been, from church to the business, just everywhere. People here have always welcomed us.”

Now, Justin is cementing that commitment to the community, and buying the store from his family.

“One hundred percent ownership over time, and over many payments,” he quipped.

The move, said Justin, has been years in the making. He grew up in the car business. 

“As I was growing up, I started doing all the jobs in the dealership—mowing the grass, detailing cars, working in parts, working in sales,” Justin recalled. “I’m very thankful for that because it helped me realize what everyone has to go through. It helps me understand the issues of each job and how they have to work together.”

He’s also attended some of the best dealer training schools and even been to the Disney Institute, which focuses on leadership and professional development.

His dad, Mark, has been a good role model too.

“My dad is definitely retirement age,” Justin said, “and I’ve been fortunate that he’s basically let me do what I want to do. I really enjoy this.”

“Car dealerships are weird because there are a lot of different ways to run one,” he added. “I feel like I’ve found my balance.”

It helps to have good people working around you. Birdnow Chevrolet Monona employs around 20 people, some of whom have worked at the dealership for 30 or more years.

“That’s a huge deal,” Justin said. “The dealership isn’t the building and the land, even the cars—it’s the people. The employees talk to many customers every day, and take care of everyone coming through the door in buying and servicing cars. That’s the key to long-term success.”

As he takes over full ownership, Justin said the best part is nothing at the dealership will really change.

“We’re going to continue to do the things we’ve been doing,” he noted.

Birdnow Chevrolet Monona sells new and used vehicles, and also leases them. Staff can service any make or model, plus there’s a body shop and a popular detail department.

The dealership’s territory stretches from West Union to the Mississippi River.

“I take it very seriously, being able to provide warranty to the area, and recalls. It’s a service, to have a dealership,” Justin said. “As long as I’m here, we’ll always be competitive. That’s my main focus: whatever dollar you’re spending, you’re getting great value out of that dollar, whether it’s buying a car or servicing a car, even a detail or body shop.”

People bringing their business to Birdnow also supports other businesses, Justin added.

“We do draw from other towns, which I think helps other businesses. Quite often, people come here for service and go get something to eat. They do their shopping here and spend time. We give them a car to drive to do that,” he explained. “I think it goes hand in hand. I think a community needs a good school and definitely a bank, and after that, the businesses need to help each other create a draw.”

Moving forward, Justin said this commitment will continue. Already a member of the Monona Chamber and Economic Development Board, a youth coach and supporter of local causes, he’d like to get even more involved in the Monona community. 

“We want to continue to get deeper roots in the community, with not only the dealership and giving back, but my family as well,” he remarked. “I’ll never be able to say I’m born here, but I can say I’m from here. It makes me want to do more.”

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