Tesla eyeing Kitchener for dealership


Brent Davis
Waterloo Region Record

KITCHENER, ONT. — It looks like Tesla has set its sights on the high-tech hub of Waterloo Region.

The high-end electric vehicle manufacturer is planning to open a store on Victoria Street North in Kitchener where Saab of KW currently stands, say the used-car dealership’s owners.

Brothers Ron and Ray Kraishnik have sold the nearly two-acre property at 663 Victoria St. N. next to the Conestoga Parkway that they’ve owned since 1995. They said the site was purchased by a real estate holding company on behalf of Tesla, and that the automaker plans to renovate the existing building for its needs.

For the Kraishniks, it was ultimately an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Having been in the auto business for nearly four decades, they have dealt exclusively in used cars and service since 2013. They were looking to get back into new vehicles with a new car franchise, “but there wasn’t much available, ” Ron said.

Ray said he’d approached Tesla a couple of years ago, interested in a franchise. Tesla replied that its stores were corporate — but added it was interested in the property. When the Kraishniks couldn’t find a suitable franchise, they eventually accepted an offer from Tesla.

The brothers are directing customers to Essential Auto Service on Baffin Place in Waterloo, where owner Rich Gregg has acquired some of the business’ assets. He’s also taking on two of Saab of KW’s employees, service consultant Deb Jones and technician James Wagner, and plans on welcoming new customers with an open house April 28.

“It’s really important to (Ron and Ray) that their customers are taken care of, ” Gregg said.

Their first dealership, Maple Leaf Motors, opened its doors on Belmont Avenue in 1980 and specialized in used vehicles. By 1988, they were approved for a new car franchise and began selling makes like Saturn, Saab, Isuzu and eventually Suzuki.

Over the years, they cultivated a loyal clientele stretching from London to Oakville and gave back to their community, with donations ranging from playground equipment to thousands of children’s soccer uniforms.

“After 37 years, most of our customers became our friends, ” Ron said. “It was a hard decision, ” admitted Ray. “It’s going to be missed.”

The timeline for the property’s transformation to a Tesla dealership isn’t known. The company did not respond to an email seeking information on Wednesday afternoon.

Tesla, which sells the Model S, Model 3 and Model X, has 10 stores in Canada, including two in Toronto and one in Oakville.