One needn't be an Autoblog regular to be aware of the fact that the car industry has taken quite a drubbing over the past few years. The slump in our nation's economy has slaughtered sales, leading automakers to shutter thousands of dealerships nationwide. Chrysler Group LLC slashed 789 franchises in June of this year. General Motors has said it will cut 2,400 retail locations of its own by next fall.

With empty dealerships littering the country and a depressed real estate market adding to the opportunity, the Associated Press notes that America's once gleaming new car showrooms are increasingly being converted into food banks, restaurants, day care centers, private residences, and more. Typical automotive showrooms are built sturdy to house heavy vehicles and accommodate high foot traffic. They offer countless windows for plenty of natural light and are generally centrally-located within a commercial community for visibility reasons. In a nutshell, they are near-perfect locations for many entrepreneurs and businesses.

In Oregon, a Catholic Community Services organization runs a food bank warehouse inside a former showroom. In St. Louis, an old dealership is now a classy wedding venue. In Los Angeles, at Golden Bridge Yoga, the aroma of incense has replaced that "new car smell" in a relic automotive showroom. The incessant noise of customers haggling over pricing is gone and the perimeter is no longer strung with posters of shiny late model sedans. The only drone heard today are that of percussive Eastern rhythms... while solemn prayer flags adorn the former showroom walls.

Turning car sales points into new, non-automotive businesses is a trend that's likely to accelerate well beyond the Naughties, so check out the link below to learn more about it, and be sure to drop a line in Comments if you've seen any particularly creative dealership repurposing in your neighborhood.

[Source: Associated Press | Image: Spencer Platt/Getty]