In less than a day, the busy where new and used cars have been bought and serviced for nearly 50 years was reduced to blackened metal, broken bricks, shattered glass and melted car parts.
An early morning fire on Saturday caused so much damage that the building was considered a total loss, said Darren Buhler in the parking lot on Saturday night.
Although it is believed the fire began in the service area of the building, an official cause for the fire has not yet been determined. It is under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's office.
About 40 people work for Buhler at the Hazlet location. They also have an auto dealership in Eatontown. On Sunday morning, employees at the fire scene were busily matching keys rescued from the building with new vehicles parked on the dealership's lot. Car horns sounded from every corner of the site as workers carried keys around the lot and pressed buttons to locate the vehicles for each set.
The family-owned business has been a landmark for 40 years near the corner of Holmdel Road and Route 35 South, and has been a supporter of community organizatons in the Bayshore area.
Buhler runs the firm with his brother-in-law Garry Foltz. He said the company was first started by his great grandfather and grand-uncle in Keyport.