RHINELANDER - When Mike Aus unsheathed the Japanese Katana sword presented to him Thursday night, it marked the realization of a long-held dream for the local businessman.
"It was always a dream of mine to build a dealership in Rhinelander from the ground up," Aus said during his opening remarks at the official grand opening for Rhinelander Toyota's new dealership and service center.
Construction of the state-of-the-art 38,000-square-foot facility (twice the size of the old building) began last May on an unseasonably cold day that included snow flurries as Jim Thyes of Bayland Buildings, the contractor on the project, noted Thursday.
"It doesn't look much different now except there's a nice building," he said.
After nearly eight months of construction, the facility was completed in December but Thursday night was the time to celebrate. People gathered at Rhinelander Toyota for a special event that included the presentation of the Katana sword, a long-standing tradition for the Japanese automaker.
Kevin Fletcher, general manager of the Chicago sales region for Toyota, said the presentation of the sword is meant to be a symbol of the "strength, quality and integrity" of a Toyota dealer, the same traits valued by the Samurai warriors who used the swords in battle centuries ago.
"Any time we have an opportunity to open a new dealership, it's special," Fletcher said. "The recipe for our success is the strong relationship we have with our dealers. What we ask of them is to provide a level of service that creates longstanding customer relationships in a community and Rhinelander Toyota has done that for 11 years."