Helton joins ownership team at Rifle dealership
When Front Range car dealer Mike Peebles heard that the Columbine Ford dealership in Rifle was for sale, he thought of his friend, Colorado Rockies star Todd Helton.
“He’s an outdoorsy, hunting guy. I thought it was a good fit. He’s a country boy,” Peebles said.
Helton, who Peebles said has hunted in the Rifle area, teamed up with Peebles and Silt resident Jimmy Breslin to buy the dealership, in a transaction that took effect Monday.
Helton is 39 and nearing the end of his playing days, with a year left on his current contract. Peebles, who owns half of Longmont Ford and Freeway Ford, said he sells cars to lots of Rockies and has known Helton since he was a rookie, and Helton has always had an interest in the automotive sales business. He appears in commercials for Peebles’ dealerships and is friends with John Elway, whose own involvement in car dealerships may have helped spark Helton’s interest, Peebles said.
Peebles said this is Helton’s first foray into the auto dealership business, where one attraction may be the scorecard mentality of how many vehicles are being sold. But he said Helton’s focus will continue to be the Rockies as long as he continues to play.
“I think it’s a look-see for him,” Peebles said. “We’re not actively looking for anything else, but it’s something, if he enjoys it, when he retires, whether it’s next year or whatever, then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Columbine Ford was founded more than 20 years ago by Sam Levine, who’s more than 90 years old, and by his son, Rick.
“They’ve always been rated equally high for service and always been community-oriented,” said Frank Ladd, president and chief executive officer of the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce.
He said they will be missed, but Helton’s ownership role is exciting.
“Any time you can get a big name, a celebrity sports person, to come in and invest in your community, it’s always a good thing,” he said.
Given Helton’s love of hunting, Ladd said he’d love to get him involved in lending his name to promoting Rifle’s outdoor recreation industry.
Breslin will serve as manager of Columbine Ford, which Peebles said will keep its name.
It employs about 30 people, but Peebles hopes to see that number grow to 45 or 50 within a year. He said part of that growth will come from expanding its used-car inventory by working with his other dealerships.
This isn’t the only involvement by Denver sports greats in Western Slope businesses. Former Denver Bronco Vance Johnson, who used to catch passes from Elway, owns VJ’s Outlaw Ribbs restaurant in Parachute and this year opened a second eatery, Vance’s Epic-Curious, in Grand Junction.