A local used car dealer who irked Chandler officials by using well-endowed female mannequins to advertise on Arizona Avenue quietly closed late last month, leaving some suppliers with unpaid bills.
Chandler code enforcement officials had warned Tracy Tingue, owner and general manager of the AutoMart Superstore on the northeast corner of Knox Road and Arizona Avenue, that the mannequins violated the city's sign laws, which regulate the type of commercial signs that can be displayed.
The mannequins now have been removed, and so has almost everything else at the AutoMart site. Notices posted on the door by the building's landlord, Richard Walters, state that AutoMart has been evicted from the property and that a lien has been placed on all personal property remaining on the premises. Other than a few desks, the building appears to contain only a few office-related items.
Walters said the company no longer occupies the site, but he declined further comment. Messages left with AutoMart went unreturned. The company's Web site is still active, but the 96 cars it lists as inventory - worth hundreds of thousands of dollars altogether - all have been removed from the company's physical address. There is no forwarding address posted on the building, in the company's voice mail, or on its Web site.
Rick Brzuchalski, city code enforcement manager, said that with the mannequins gone, code enforcement is satisfied.
"As far as I'm concerned, our problem is solved at this point in time," Brzuchalski said. "We'll be doing nothing further with this."
Doug Blankenship, president of Precision Dealer Services, a Cave Creek automotive marketing company, said he had a three-year business relationship supplying services to AutoMart, but Tingue never indicated that he planned to close. He filed a complaint against Tingue with an online consumer protection Web site after Tingue failed to pay a $1,000 bill for vehicle window signs created by Precision.
Blankenship said he found out the business had closed from an employee who noticed while driving in Chandler.
"He told me, 'You know what, they're gone,'" Blankenship said. "To be honest, up until this point we had never had an issue."
However, Tingue later called him on the phone and promised to pay up, Blankenship said. During the conversation, Tingue said he had a dispute with his landlord, but he still has his inventory and plans to find another facility, Blankenship said.