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Tri-Star plans move to White Oak

| Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 7:52 p.m.

Tri-Star Motors is about to be the next occupant of a White Oak location known for decades for automobile dealerships.

“We purchased it (Oct. 18),” Tri-Star Auto Group vice president Jack Bartko said on Friday about the $1.5 million acquisition of what recently was Jim Shorkey's White Oak location.

By the start of next year, Bartko and Tri-Star Ford hope to move from 4201 Walnut St., adjacent to Olympia Shopping Center in McKeesport, to the 3.16-acre property at 1234 Long Run Road.

“There will be extensive renovation,” Bartko said of the new location. “It will be a state-of-the-art Ford dealership.”

In terms of jobs it is good news to the region as a whole. Bartko anticipates adding to the sales and service staff in White Oak.

“Our plan is to be increasing employees,” the Tri-Star vice president said. “The body shop there is a lot larger than what we have now. We will have a sales facility. We will be putting in a quick-lane facility for the quick kind of service issues — oil change, tires, batteries — as well as a regular facility for all warranty needs.”

But it is bad news for a city that welcomed Tri-Star in 2005.

“It obviously is disappointing to see Tri-Star move down the road and out of the city,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said on Friday night. “We will work to possibly bring another business into that location.”

Tri-Star first set up shop in the McKeesport area in the former Babe Charapp Ford location along Eden Park Boulevard. It moved in 2006 to the former Ames Department Store location it will vacate for White Oak.

Bartko, who has local roots, is familiar with the history of Tri-Star's newest location.

“Originally that was Bill Anderson Chrysler,” Bartko said. “He had it for several years, then John Thomas got it from him.”

According to Allegheny County records, Thomas Land Co. bought the property in December 1993 for $324,000, about a fifth of the price tag for the acquisition filed with county officials last week.

John Thomas Chrysler was followed by White Oak Chrysler, a facility leased by Thomas to Tom LaFrankie.

“They had Kia,” Bartko recalled, “then they sold Kia to Shorkey and picked up the Jeep franchise.”

LaFrankie and Shorkey both eventually moved to North Huntingdon. LaFrankie operated Norwin Dodge and Shorkey now has Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram truck sales at one location and Kia sales at another along Route 30 in North Huntingdon Township.

Bartko had hoped renovation work already could be under way, but said, “We still probably are looking at the start of 2014” for a move from Walnut Street.

“We just believe being on Long Run Road and Route 48 will give us a better retail presence and still be able to serve our core customers,” Bartko said. He describes an area extending to North Huntingdon and Elizabeth townships as “our primary area of responsibility.”

Tri-Star dates back to 1998, when it started its first location in Blairsville and today has Ford and Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Kia sales there.

Tri-Star also has Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram sales in Indiana; Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram sales in Somerset; Ford sales in Tyrone; and two Uniontown dealerships, one for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, the other a new Nissan operation.

Trib Total Media business writer Sam Spatter contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or