Ohio dealer’s car shows are ‘where it’s at’


Maxton’s event attracts hundreds of vehicles — just Chevys, please — and potential customers.

The undertaking begins early on a Friday morning.

Jeff Mauk and roughly a dozen employees at Jack Maxton Chevrolet in suburban Columbus, Ohio, begin clearing their entire lot of hundreds of vehicles, moving them from positions of prime real estate to another lot behind the dealership.

Sometime after midnight, they will finish moving them all back. In between, the dealership holds its Friday Night Cruisin’ event, a gathering that Maxton stages multiple times every summer. The meetup of car fans serves as a flagship in the dealership’s ongoing development and retention of its customer base.

Now entering its 28th summer, the event has a well-established reputation in the region.

“If you go to car shows and you have a Chevy, you know about the Maxton Cruisin’, ” said Mauk, who started working at the dealership more than 30 years ago and has been its owner since 2003. “You just know. That’s where it’s at.”

During the event, the property resembles a street fair more than a car dealership. Bands, DJs and food trucks greet attendees, in addition to the legions of Corvettes, Camaros and Corvairs that arrive for the shows. Cars range from vintage to modern.

Target audience

The event has a local, exclusive flavor. Car enthusiasts are welcome to bring Chevrolets but not other brands. And while the event’s reputation may stretch beyond the borders of the store’s Worthington, Ohio, home base, it is targeted squarely at potential customers from the area.

“I don’t want them to come from too far, because people from out of town won’t come here to buy,” Mauk said. “We check. There’s a lot of big shows in Columbus, and we don’t want people from out of town coming and jamming our lot. They’re not potential customers.”

Held on the third Friday of June, July, August and September, the event can attract as many as 400 vehicles. There’s no charge for participants, but there is a registration process that ensures the dealership can collect information from each attendee.

“We log everybody in and keep a database,” said Mauk, who estimates 20 percent of attendees for each Cruisin’ event are newcomers to the dealership. With four events every year and nearly three decades of experience, he’s built a formidable foundation.

Mauk doesn’t track specific financial targets for the events but said he sees the payoff “in sales, service and parts, even the body shop, all year long.” Maxton sells an average of 300 new and used vehicles each month, he said.

No pressure

But selling stays in the background during the car shows. They’re strictly casual affairs. And the car enthusiasts accustomed to displaying their vehicles at shows where they await the scrutiny of discerning judges won’t encounter strict judging criteria at Maxton.

Awards are doled out by staff members purely on the basis of what strikes their interest. Seventy or more awards can be distributed on any given night. On certain nights, there’s a focus on a particular vehicle, such as Corvettes. Other nights will feature a smattering of everything. One recent show featured awards for favorite Chevelle, Nova, Monte Carlo, Camaro and wagon.

For every classic vehicle on his lot during the event, Mauk said he believes there’s usually a modern-day Chevy in the driveway at home. It’s a good reminder that for all the fun, the event is focused on his customer base.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Mauk said. “We’re car guys, and we like it. But ultimately, yeah, we’re doing this and spending money because it attracts customers.”