(first posted 2/22/2013. Springfield Buick closed in August 2019) You want to know what small-town car dealerships were like many decades ago? In downtown Springfield, across the river from Eugene, Springfield Buick is like a time machine, except that the cars are new. Family owned since its opening in 1949, this little Buick store has bucked many trends, as well as GM’s edict to eliminate stand-alone stores as part of their post-bankruptcy reorganization. Did it somehow fall through the cracks? No matter; here it still is, just like it always has been for 64 years. Let’s drop in for a visit.
Proudly displayed on the wall in the showroom is the announcement of the Grand Opening, on April 23, 1949. And the building looks exactly the same except for the signs and the new cars out front.
Obviously, the interior has been remodeled. Corey Churchill, who does pretty much everything in regard to car sales, is not behind the desk just now. He’s backed up by Bob Scherer, the owner. Overhead costs have to be kept low in order for this to work in 2013. And Corey tells me he’s not exactly sure how they survived the dealer cull, which was particularly focused on stand-alone dealers like them.
There was a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealership in Eugene, which shut down in 2010, due to a lack of sales. The West Coast, and especially a place like Eugene, has not been kind to GM sales for quite a while. But Springfield Buick hangs on.
There’s Corey, discussing a likely sale with a customer. What do you mean, there are no new LeSabres available?
If he closes it, it will be one of four to five new cars Springfield Buick sells per month. Used car sales average several times more than that.
The one-car showroom has large photos up on the walls depicting the history of Buick and Springfield Buick. They’re way more interesting than the Enclave sitting there. Now that’s how dealerships have changed since I was a kid. I used to spend almost every Saturday at the Chevrolet-Buick-Cadillac store in Iowa City, and it was the cars I came to look at at. My favorite car to sit in was the ’63 Riviera, and I gave both the front and rear bucket seats a thorough workout while perusing every detail of the heavy-stock Cadillac brochures in my lap.
Of course, the cars really were more interesting then, and I say that not just because I was a kid. The Enclave just can’t compete with a Roadmaster convertible.
I’d love to slide behind the big red leather interior of that one right now. They should have kept it in the showroom forever.
On my many trips across Nebraska in the early seventies, taking the old two lane highways instead of I-80, I noticed a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer with some decidedly less-than current cars in the showroom, right there on the main drag in Holdrege or maybe some other small town. The owner had presciently selected one new car to not sell each year, starting in the mid-fifties. The showroom had turned into a museum, and he picked the very cream of the crop of each year’s cars to keep; or more likely ordered them. The plain-old new cars for sale were all relegated to the outdoors.
I can’t remember them all, but the most memorable was a ’61 Chrysler 300G with the optional cross-ram intake 413. Never seen one before, or after; but it was unforgettable. And there was a 1967 Hemi GTX. And so on. I’m sure the owner made some collector very happy when he died; or more like made his heirs happy. Some dozen cars or so, one from each year, all “new”, with just a couple of miles on the odometer. Talk about a time capsule. But let’s get back to Springfield Buick.
The selection here is a bit less exotic. No need to actually talk about 2013 Buicks today, or let’s just say I didn’t stop to look at them. But Corey tells me he has seen an uptick in younger customers in the past couple of years, which makes him happy. His goal is to get to a six cars per month average.
Here’s the rest of the new car inventory; looks like about ten cars in total back here, or two months’ worth.
The used car lot isn’t exactly large either, but the cars are “Certified”, not just “OK”.
Here’s the view from the back; maybe about twenty used cars in total. This really is a small operation, and utterly devoid of high pressure, big flags, banners, and other such stuff. Folks here know where to go for a pleasant experience, and where they’ll be treated right by the owner or Corey, as they have been for so many decades.
Here’s the service area; a bit slow today. I wonder what year was the best ever for Springfield Buick? 1965? 1977?
Someone wants to get their Pontiac serviced. Where else to go for that, nowadays?
There’s a genuine LeSabre, getting loving attention so that its owner won’t miss any doctor appointments.
I’m not sure how it’s being used now, but I’ll bet this was designed to be the new car prep area. Looks almost exactly like the one behind Towson Ford where I used to rub down the cars to make them shine before being handed over to their proud new owners.
Now I’m not getting paid for this plug, but if you’re thinking about a new Buick, head on over to Seventh and A Street in Springfield, because I’d really like to see them make it for another sixty-four years. One of these days, I might get the yen to just drop in and sit in the new car in the showroom. Need to bring back the Riviera, Buick!
This reminds me of South Shore Buick, a small standalone Buick dealership in Quincy, MA, the next town over from where I used to live. It closed in 2009 and is now a Planet Fitness. I’m happy to say that the faded lettering is still visible on the back of the building from the train tracks. Here’s a link to an article about the closing:
Growing up in San Rafael, we had Stenstrom Buick, later Don Collins Buick. I played for their Little League team for a few years as a kid. They sold Opels, too through the late 70’s when they well selling the (silly named) Isuzu/Opel (Gemini – Japanese Chevette). They closed down around 2003 or so. That part of Francisco Boulevard was razed and (had) a Borders, and some other upscale-y strip mall type stores. In Marin, in Pt. Reyes Station, was a real rinky-dink stand alone – Cheda Chevrolet. A very small storefront Chevy Dealer.
I drove by that dealership a hundred gazillion times and always noted it for its home town feel it exudeded.
I bought a 96 Roadmaster at a little family owned Buick dealership in nearby downtown Stoughton. It reminded me of the way things were when my father bought his 64 LeSabre from Bezema Buick in downtown Norwood. The Stoughton dealer closed a month after my Roadmaster was delivered. They told me I was the last person that ordered a car through them.
Just curious, what was the name of that Buick dealer?
Dino Buick on Rt. 138
17 years later it still sits there vacant.
The town of Stoughton was also the home of Lehan Ford which used to advertise that they were the world’s oldest Ford dealership. They were sold in the 60s and moved to the edge of town in the 70s and after a few other name changes are still in business.
I absolutely love it. I would buy a Buick if I lived anywhere near this place.
I drive back home to South Carolina a couple times a year, and I always make it a point to take a different, non interstate route every time. I can’t get enough of small town car dealers. My favorite from a couple months ago was Brose Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep in Corinth MS. Yep, Plymouth. It’s a bad picture, but its in there…
I like them paying homage to Plymouth. Another small dealer near me, Foley Chrysler-Plymouth also kept the Plymouth signage up until they sadly closed about 5 years ago.
Bought a ’63 Valiant in Corinth, many many years ago when traveling through the South. Paid $200 for it. Turned out to be a gem.
Now I know the dealer that probably sold it when new!
Did it still have Plymouth on the Mopar sign by the road too? Or had that been removed.
No Plymouth at the road. Just did a Google streetview to see. Its a red, white and blue 4 panel. Top is the 80’s style Chrysler star like on the building in my photo. Then it says Chrysler Jeep Dodge.
Ltd – Reading your post is gratifying, not so much for the Mopar dealership but for letting me know I am NOT the only person who shuns the Interstates if there’s a US Highway available in its place. My wife and I, children of New England and the PacNW, decided we wanted to start seeing our beautiful country; not to continue being insulated from it. (We had had our first real taste of it, driving US-7 from Sheffield Mass. to Burlington Vt. during foliage season…a truly BEAUTIFUL drive…we recommend it to any and all.)
Here in the Southeast,, thanks to the legions of southern Congressmen who controlled the federal highway funding during the 1940s and ’50s by sheer dint of seniority, our share of the US Highway System (funding AND road-mileage) is unparalleled and many of the original alignments have been straightened, widened and otherwise brought to near-Interstate standards. (Take I-95 through Lumberton NC, and that permanently-under-construction section STILL dumps onto US-301 all the way through town just as it did in 1972 when our family wended our way to Florida for February school vacation!)
One of our favorite drives is US-17 from Norfolk VA – where our oldest and his wife and brood live – all the way to its southern terminus in Punta Gorda Fla. where we pick up US-41 for the remaining 35 miles or so into Fort Myers where we live. Another is US-301, Florida’s main northwest/southwest highway from Jacksonville to Sarasota…but beware the three AAA-sanctioned speed traps in Starke, Lawtey and Waldo. Elsewhere about the country, we seek them out. Out West, the US Highways are as fast as the Interstates and light-years more interesting.
Looks exactly like the kind of dealer I’d like to buy a car from. The experience must be quite different than huge, impersonal dealerships, with so few cars sold per month. Best of luck to them, I hope they survive.
“…but the cars are “Certified” and not just “OK”.”
Was the “OK Used Cars” slogan a GM-wide brand like Mr. Goodwrench? Our local Chevy dealer still has some “OK” signs hanging on lampposts. As a child, I was always puzzled that “OK” was highest praise they could summon for their cars.
Overheard on a GM “OK” used car lot:
Customer: “Is this a good car?”
Salesman: “It’s OK. All our cars are. Just like the sign sezzzzzz.”
Customer: “OK. Where’s the nearest Honda dealer?”
Hey, didn’t Honda put little “OK” stickers on its new car windows? I seem to remember them doing that in the 80’s
I remember that as well, but I always assumed it was some sort of local thing associated with a particular dealership/chain. Maybe not, unless you were in central North Carolina at the time.
Yes, they did.
Chrysler briefly countered with “Road Ready.”
You can even get new ones for your restoration project.
Buick used to have “Quality Checked” used cars, OK was Chevrolet’s used car brand.
“OK” was for Chevy Used Cars. Buick had “All Square” used cars (back in the ’50s).
When I was a kid, and well into the 1970s, there used to be a little teeny Ford dealer in Woodburn, Indiana (population of probably under 500) that dated from the days of the Model T. I believe it was Paul Augsburger Ford.
In the 60s, my car-mentor Howard owned a 37 Ford and used to go in on Saturdays to comb through the shelves of the parts department that was still loaded with NOS parts from that era. If I remember the story correctly, this was also where he got to know the owner who had a really dusty 47 Lincoln sedan in the back that had belonged to his son who had been killed in Korea. Howard told me that after asking for quite awhile, he finally convinced the old man to let him take it home and clean it up for him. When he brought it back, the old man got a tear in his eye and sold it to Howard. It was a beautiful black low mileage original. Isn’t this the kind of story that every one of us daydreams about? That time it really happened.
There’s a defunct dealer on the east end of East Liverpool, OH, that has at least two old cars sitting in the closed showroom. A blue 67 Plymouth Fury coupe with the fastback roof, and a maroon 75 or so Satellite. I’ve never stopped to look, but the cars seem covered with layers of dust, with the showroom windows equally dusty. I haven’t been past there for a year or so; I’ve always wondered about the story why those cars haven’t been moved in decades.
The showroom building looks a lot like a 50’s McDonalds, same genre of building.
There was a Jalopnik post from 2010 on this place:
The owner died almost a year ago, here’s his obit:
I still haven’t had any luck in finding the exact address of that building online!
Update – address found:
1480 Pennsylvania Avenue, East Liverpool, Ohio 43920
Google Street View data is from 2008, however.
2016 Google image shows only the mid-70s Fury 2-door in the showroom.
It looks like another car on the right you can just make out the front of what looks like a Cordoba-clone Charger. I want it!
Funny, I got the colors mixed up. The 67 is maroon and the 75 is blue. Interesting article. I recall now the dealership was Mark Motors.
There’s another defunct Ohio dealer, Twining Ford, in Oberlin that has a couple dusty cars in the showroom. One is an early ’80s Grand Marquis which is rumored to have only several hundred miles one it. And there’s the defunct Chevy store in Deshler I mentioned in a post here at CC a couple of years ago that has a Vega that’s basically brand new.
When I was a kid we used to go camping every year down in central Washington state near Levenworth…I’ll always remember the little Chevrolet dealer in town there called “Yes Sir Chevrolet”, just a one car showroom also and the small service dept. I recall seeing a new red Impala convertible in the window in 1968! I would imagine the local Sherriffs Dept. got their cars there also as there were 3 68 427 Biscaynes parked out front out front of the office in town at the time.
Sisk Buick is a standalone Buick dealer in Longview Texas similar to the one in the story above. I sell advertising to local businesses and ran across them last year. The dealership is family owned and has been there for many years. It is not remodeled like the one above and still has a concrete showroom floor. The owner told me that he almost lost the dealership but somehow managed to hold on. http://www.siskbuicklongview.com/
3 1/2 years later, Sisk Buick in Longview TX is still in business!
Sisk Buick in Longview made it till May of 2020.
Here is a Picture of Lowell Buick Company, opened in Lowell MA 1921.
I remember going to look at a new Regal with my parents around 1981 or 1983 when they still sold only Buicks and still used this building.
The current owner moved his dealership across town and sells Lincolns and Kias. My cousin used to work for him when he sold Mercurys. My cousin helped move some cars stored in the basement of the Lowell Buick Company building around 1995 or 96. One was a brand new Regal GNX that the owner never sold and had forgotten he even had until they got it over to the Linoln-Mercury franchise….
I used to go with my dad to the Lowell car dealers when he was in the market. He bought a new 1955 Mercury from 1400 Motors, and a 1956 Olds from Pease Olds. Pease later took over the 1400 Motors facility. My dad and I bought a used (emphasis on used) 1960 Plymouth from Pease in 1967. $300 and our ’57 Chevy Bel Air. The salesman, who had grown up with my dad, asked him if the Chevy was any good. My dad said “you bet”. Had he seen us driving into the dealership with the Chevy trailing a thick cloud of blue smoke he would not have asked that question. I put 65,000 miles on the Plymouth during my college years and reluctantly drove it to a junkyard with 130,000 miles on the ticker. 318 V8 and TorqFlite were still performing flawlessly. I buried my father at St Pat’s just across the street from 1400 Motors in 2001. I even designed the tombstone.
you must remember Lallas Buick then, the picture above…
I just got off the phone with my dad because I remember that the owner, Nick Lallas had killed himself shortly after we test drove a Regal there. Just couldn’t remember why he did it.
I remember the name but not the dealership. Probably one of the many Greeks that made good in Lowell.
That one reminds me of the former Johnson Buick, in downtown Durham, NC. Similar “old style” urban dealership building. Ceased to be a Buick dealership in 1984; the building still stands (and looks about the same other than the missing sign) and is used by the Sheriff’s department today. The Ford dealership next door also still stands and is used by the Housing Authority, though the windows have been mostly blocked off.
Where I live in rural Connecticut we have West Chevrolet proudly selling only Chevrolet’s since 1955. I purchased my 2011 Malibu there and I have to say..to quote the old show Cheer’s..it’s nice to go to a place where everyone knows your name. However to accomodate changing tastes and to survive the economy they do now have an extensive used car lot with where you can find a bevy of GM program cars and they now have opened the service bays to all makes & models-which is great as they also service my 1980 Olds Cutluss. The last time the Cutluss went in for an oil change-all the tech’s stopped and saluted it as it was driven it to it’s spot-it was a great moment considering the majority of them weren’t even born yet when it rolled off the line. West’s is a great testament to the small business spirit that is fastly disappearing..
I find it interesting, also, that the dealer was able to hang onto the “GM” plaque below the main sign panel. Those seemed to all go away with the re-signing and re-aligning of dealerships.
It’s hard to fathom how and why some small outfits like this one were able to hang on while others were forced to close. I’ll leave it to others to bring up the dark mutterings of politics; but the reality of it is: It was done capriciously, by whim and arbitrary selection, instead of rationally, by sales performance or territory served.
That does not bode the New GM well. When business decisions are made by impulse or the calling of favors…people, suppliers and customers, are afraid of being caught on the wrong side without knowing.
In 2011 when my wife was new-car shopping, she decided to visit Bewley-Allen Cadillac in Alhambra, CA and take a look at a CTS. The dealership had been there since before WWII, I think, and had a very similar feel to Springfield Buick. Last year it closed and its inventory was taken over by the bigger Cadillac dealer in Covina, which is part of a larger group, as you might expect. 🙁
A different kind of place from Eugene.
In the late sixties I worked in Springfield and lived in Eugene. It was a real cultural trip to go back and forth every day. But I developed an affection for both.
Many twin cities in this country exhibit the same dichotomy. White collar in one, blue collar in the other. It is no surprise that Springfield would be the one to retain the Buick dealer.
Maybe because I’m a car nut I find old car dealership buildings intriguing. There’s just something about their “time capsule” nature that fascinates me more than old buildings that served other purposes.
I don’t remember when, but I bought this book awhile ago. It’s still available on Amazon.
I have this same book.
Though its not a stand alone Buick shop, Reynolds Buick-GMC in West Covina California is a pure time warp back to 1966 Buick dealership. Look at the signage!
And heres a pic from 1964. In business since 1915!
They even have one of those new fangled blogs…..
Its a neat blog and they seem like a very cool dealership, they even had their own Opel racing team.
If you live in Kalifornia, check it out, before it becomes illegal or insensisitve.
“… check it out, before it becomes illegal…” But as Gen-X and millenials come into city council positions, midcentury Googie architecture is coming to be seen as worth preserving – it’s been said we all reject the world our parents built and embrace our grandparents’.
I’d try to get that sign listed as historic before GM realizes it’s still out there.
I know, its strange to see a GM dealership that doesnt have the standard “GM Key” GMDI leased sign out front.
How very misleading! The title led me to believe that this is where Homer and Marge Simpson bought their cars, but no…and I was so looking forward to a follow-up article about Pratley Cadillac-Hyundai in Arlen, Texas.
J/K, Paul — I love stories about small-town dealerships. Where I grew up, the only place within 150 miles where you could buy a new Mercedes was a Mercedes-Rambler dealership in Pekin, IL. It just seemed so weird to see a 280SEL share showroom space with a Classic 770. BTW, Carmine, I used to live just a few blocks from Reynolds Buick-GMC in West Covina.
Well, I believe the Springfield in Oregon is the hometown of Simpsons creator Matt Groening .
Groening was born and raised in Portland, and used a bunch of busy street names as character names. Lovejoy, Flanders, Quimby, Powell, etc. He DID use Springfield, Oregon and Eugene Skinner as a “setting”. SkinerrrRRR!!!!
I think Rassas Buick in Red Bank, NJ is now standalone Buick. It was Pontiac, then Pontiac-Buick before.
When I lived in Jersey, I use to frequent the Long Branch branch of the Red Bank bank.:-}
I’m old enough to remember dealerships like this all over western Canada. I’ve never seen a stand-alone Buick dealer though. In the ’70s my Dad worked at the local Chev-Olds emporium and he was there when the old building like this one gave way to a “modern” facility. Even then I knew the change was not going to be for the better.
I earned a few bucks helping them move the parts department, and that’s where I learned what “new old stock” was. There were parts going back to the late ’40s, still in thier original packing. If I recall, the old stuff was culled out by getting rid of anything that did not have the current GM or Delco packaging colour scheme. Someone bought everything we didn’t move for a song, since the dealership owner’s theory was that old parts enabled old cars to keep running. “We’re here to sell new ones”, the man said.
I’ve often wondered what treasures we piled up by the shipping door and basically gave away back then. Good article, and I hope Springfield Buick survives.
Today’s dealerships stock a bare-minimum of parts and supplies. Almost everything is back-ordered; and it surprised me a few years ago to find that even relatively routine repairs involve prepackaged supplies – like a “clutch kit,” something you’d expect Auto Zone to peddle. Not something the Goodwrench dealer needed to order.
I guess it’s to keep overhead to a bare-bones minimum. And on one level it makes sense; I remember an enthusiastic, fully gung-ho Yugo dealer in Henderson, Nevada. Traveling through, I needed a clutch; and in talking about other work and repairs, the service manager proudly displayed bins of cam-adjustment shim discs and other Yugo parts.
That was about nine months before the Yugo was kaput. He got left holding the bag; other dealers learned from his and others’ experiences.
Now that most dealerships rely on the service and parts operations for a majority of their profits, it is no surprise that consolidation has gone on in fixed operations. I would not say that most dealerships stock a bare minimum, but what they stock are the faster moving maintenance items and certain non-mechanical items depending on the services they provide. The reason for this was that historically, most dealership did everything for a customer and it was all in house, like GM and the OEMs were totally vertically chained operations. Now that Delphi spun off and ACDELCO has expanded into a full fledged wholesale parts operations, there are warehouse distributors stocking and wholesaling GM parts and the dealerships buy what they need from them during the day.
As far as the ‘service packs’ go, it is like AutoZone etc, previously when you did work you had all sorts of individual part numbers for jobs and everything was broken out. But for alot of repairs that involved common parts, ‘kits’ have become commonplace both for ease of service and for the fact that since AC DELCO and the suppliers that manufactures the parts demand them on the secondary market. Take a clutch, you probably will not find a shop that will replace just a clutch disc only anymore. No point, so they sell kits with the disc, plate, pilot bushing, and alignment tool all in a box.
Actually it is much easier for a dealership to get parts now a days, with a fully expanded wholesale market in most areas of population and with electronic and internet inventory control it is relatively easy to find parts. I know this because I used to look stuff up every day until 2011 and was the go-to guy for the hard-to-find and discontinued items. Our shop carried catalogs for Cadillac and GM parts either on disc, on microfiche, or on paper back to 1959.
@JPT”Today’s dealerships stock a bare-minimum of parts and supplies. Almost everything is back-ordered; and it surprised me a few years ago to find that even relatively routine repairs involve prepackaged supplies – like a “clutch kit,” something you’d expect Auto Zone to peddle. Not something the Goodwrench dealer needed to order.”
@CraigInNC”Now that most dealerships rely on the service and parts operations for a majority of their profits, it is no surprise that consolidation has gone on in fixed operations”
I have to disagree with both of these statements! I can guarantee that if you live in a major metro populated area there is at least ONE mega dealership with a well stocked parts inventory and a well trained service department.When I worked in FL my inventory was over $3M! Yes that’s with a “M”! I’ve been peddling OEM parts for almost 35 years now and this is certainly not the case with EVERY dealer. If it’s a fast mover I have it on the shelf. And if I dont it’s just 24 hours away in most cases. Now you have to relize a small make, for example Mitsubishi or umm Suzuki or even Mazda can’t sell enough cars to support a dealer with such large overheads.The big boys(manufacturers) have parts supply down to an art and science. I cried when GM shut down more than half of their PDCs in 09 but you know what? They didn’t miss a beat. And Craig, there isn’t a fixed op, to my knowledge(maybe Springfield Buick) that makes more profit than the sales dept. Don’t you read Steven Langs comments over on TTAC? I bet that if you were to ask every dealer principal in this country what they thought of fixed op profits every one would say that they would love to lock the overhead doors to the service dept and send the parts back for a refund. Fixed Operations is one of those neccessary evils.
Oh and your bitching about Mr.G having to order a clutch. C’mon dude! Only Aveos and ‘Vettes(and ocassional Camaro) have 3 pedals. If you burned the clutch out in any of those than maybe you should trade up to an automatic as you can’t shift worth a damn. High miles and wear and tear are a different deal all together.
I could rant on all day long about how to run an efficient parts dept but I think you get the gist of my comment. Plus cars are better built today than they were 10-15 years ago. In other words don’t be blaming the dealer if you have to wait for something to fix that tweener daily driver. There aint no money to be made stocking stuff that has little to no demand. You’re just damn lucky that the manufacturers still have stock of some of those parts. Instant gratifaction is over rated.
Well perhaps you misinterpreted my comments a bit. I have 36 years in GM service so perhaps our experience is just different.
When I started, if the car was new enough, you went back to the particular dealer that corresponded with the make of the car. Back then, there were a lot less shared parts and it was more common to buy from each make.
Now a days, there is one mega Chevy dealer I bought most of my parts from for any GM make vehicle as well as a secondary ACDELCO aftermarket wholesaler for more generic items. Only occasionally would I shop at specific make dealers and only if it was because of a stocking issue or the occasionally item that was make specific.
Some dealers have gotten into the wholesale parts game big aggressively marketing both on price and availability to every repair shop while other dealers have concentrated on stocking only for their service bays and local walk in customers.
I am not going to speak for the entire US, but around here, and at our family dealership before it closed, most of the profits were generated by F&I deals (everything from special financing, negative equity, and all the other various schemes that turned marginal customers into buyers and allowed people to buy big), and especially the service department. The basic margin between dealer invoice and MSRP shrunk considerably over the last 40 years so it is almost unprofitable for a guy with a wad of cash to walk into a dealer negotiate a sweetheart deal with the salesman and simply write a check and never to be seen again. Sometimes we would even make almost nothing on a new car if we knew it was a good customer and sold a service contract knowing they would be bringing the car back to us on a regular basis. Back end profits are a larger share of overall profits than front end now.
So of course it largely depends on the business model of the particular dealership. Some marques like Cadillac, GMC, maybe Buick and Lincoln, Lexus, etc can survive as stand alones and/or isolated operations that largely exist to service their regular customers because the margins are high. The Chevrolet dealership that I spoke about above sells a lot of vehicles, of all kinds, but most of their profits come from fleet and commercial vehicle sales and their wholesale parts operations. Then they advertise a lot of Camaros and Corvettes.
A good friend of mine is a commercial manager for one of the big retail parts outfits and he does a lot of business (relatively) with the OE dealers who will buy mechanical parts in the aftermarket for cars in their shop. Alot of dealers are trying to boost their out-of-warranty service work with menu and competitive pricing for basic general and maintenance work and not necessarily limited to a specific make.
“Oh and your bitching about Mr.G having to order a clutch. C’mon dude! Only Aveos and ‘Vettes(and ocassional Camaro) have 3 pedals. If you burned the clutch out in any of those than maybe you should trade up to an automatic as you can’t shift worth a damn. High miles and wear and tear are a different deal all together.”
Aveos…and Jeep Wranglers…VW Type 1s…and old vans…
…and I never burned out a clutch in my LIFE…my Yugo excepted. I started out on a manual gearbox, and up until recently, never had an automatic. Last few years I had a Dodge van with an automatic…and in my fifties, I’m getting old. Shiftless seems the way to go now.
But I’ve bought used. And some of those used cars/trucks had abuse. Including more than one with a chattering clutch, or one up at the top.
So…due diligence. Maybe the car’s good and the price is good but the clutch isn’t. So, Mister Goodwrench…how much?
Careful with the assumptions, Lieutenant. When you ASSUME, you make an ASS…out of U and ME. Except this time I’m standing in the clear.
In 1963 my dad bought a used Buick Roadmaster Limited from Anderson Buick in Aledo, IL for $500. Aside from a lot of farm goo on the floor, the thing cleaned up fine. Anderson was a one-brand dealership in this little town of 3100, but drew its clients from the wealthy farmers in the area. The dealership is now Essig Motors and sells more than just Buicks.
Multi-brand GM-brand dealers were a rarity up until 20 years ago.
And then often the “second” brand was a niche brand or third-tier Japanese or Korean brand.
It was more rare to have more than one GM brand under one roof. I lived in very-small Westfield, New York for a time…Kem Dengler had a Chevrolet-Olds dealership. Very odd for the time; more odd that it was run out of a two-story bungalow that probably was Kem’s residence.
I met him once. Nice guy; complete professional. But in very rustic surroundings.
Very odd for the time; more odd that it was run out of a two-story bungalow
I would agree that a two-story bungalow is pretty odd 🙂
Refers to a certain architecture: Low roof; narrow windows…low ceiling…and all of that set atop a showroom floor. Or showroom right next to the one overhead-door backshop; all of it in rough-cut lumber. All but the glass front.
I stopped in to Springfield Buick in late 2010 to test-drive a Mercury Monterey mini-van they had on their used car lot. Had a very pleasant experience. Salesman didn’t even come along on the test-drive with me. Decided not to go the mini-van route, but if I had, I’m sure I would have bought it from them. Only them and the Toyota dealer a few blocks over are left in Springfield as new car dealers. From what I can see of the worn-out buildings, it appears they used to be all up and down Main St. (I only arrived in 2009…)
I love these little family owned dealers, we had a good little Ford dealer when I lived in Warrenton, VA; very friendly, honest, all family owned and run. They were not nearly as tiny as this one, but still. To me, THIS is what the dealership model was all about and why it is structured as it is, protected legally, etc. The modern mega-dealers have ruined it.
I should do a write-up of Ben Mynatt Chevrolet-Cadillac a dealership in Concord NC (near Charlotte) that was slated to close in 2010. However after a tremendous outpouring of support from the community and customers, GM decided to reinstate the dealership. The current owner’s father began selling Chevrolets in 1955 and the current dealership was opened in 1976.
Some dealerships like this, like many mom-and-pop type operations, survive on sheer loyalty of their customer base and the ability to turn a profit on such a small operation. My uncle’s father owned a stand-alone Oldsmobile dealership for 30 years until he closed it in 1996 still selling almost 300 cars a year down from a high of 1,200 cars a year.
In Charlotte, NC there is Williams Buick (renamed from Folger Buick) that had been a stand-alone Buick dealer since 1937. It is the oldest continuously operating Buick dealer in the state of North Carolina. They would have remained stand-alone but for when Pontiac folded they picked up the GMC dealership franchise that used to be part of a Pontiac-GMC franchise.
The oldest dealership that I am personally acquainted with is Dave Towell Cadillac in Akron, OH and has been selling cars from the same location in Akron since 1912.
What a great story about an old dealership. It almost makes me want to buy a car from them.
The building from an old Hudson dealership in Nashville is scheduled for demolition. It’s probably better known as a Tower Records store, but the exterior is still impressive even if the interior was gutted years ago. Unfortunately I can’t find any Hudson-era pictures or articles.
Color me depressed. I practically lived in that Tower when I went to Belmont. Never knew its past.
The Nashville Retrospect ran an article on the old Hudson dealership some time around 2011-2012. They have archives on their website, but I don’t remember which issue it was.
I used to go there all the time. They were a far better record store than the ones in my neighborhood at the time.
It was the E. Gray Smith Packard dealership, not Hudson. You could see the Packard grille reproduced on the stonework.
When discussing vintage car dealerships, one must also mention Sherman Oaks Californias own Casa de Cadillac, which has also looked virtually unchanged since it’s 1949 grand opening.
Didn’t they supply all the game shows with the Cadillacs they gave away as prizes way back when?
Yes, they did, on Let’s Make A Deal, I think! There are a lot of fun videos on YouTube with people getting excited winning huge early ’70s Cadillacs.
I dont remember that, though the dealership makes an appearance in Tom Pretty’s Free Fallin video, 1985’s Commando and Transformers too.
I always wondered if the winners actually took home the car that appeared on the show or if it was just merely a representative model. Except for the luxury cars, most of the cars I saw on Price Is Right, etc. were basic models. I for one if I won one would negotiate with the dealer to pay the upgrade difference and get a very nice version for peanuts. One of the shows in the 1980s used to give away Pontiac Fieros which was an unusual car for a game show.
The dont make them like that any longer…
A 1982 Chevrolet Chevette with AM radio, 4 speed manual transmission and California emissions!
Can be yours….if the Price is Right!
I remember when the price of the cars was 4 digits.
And your folks can probably remember when they were 3 digit’s!
Still there with the same Casa de Cadillac and CADILLAC lettering.
What a charming little dealership!
These are the kinds of places that excite me when it comes to the auto business, provided they are run properly.
Sadly, these days the dealers that are handed down through the family are now run by “kids” that don’t care about the product, or the people they serve. It’s all about the numbers.
Where I live there was a Biuck-Olds-Pontiac-GMC dealer downtown. When we first came here in 2001 I went in to inquire about a job. I was in shock at the condition of the place!
It did not bother me in the least that the place looked like the early 1970’s. What bothered me was 1. The new LeSabre in the showroom was covered in dust from the crumbling ceiling, the plastic still on the seats, and the giant spider web that went across the door. 2. the way the new car stock out back was literally smashed into each other and VERY dirty, and 3. the “don’t care” attitude of the owner and staff.
I learned from another dealer (that had proof) that this was the poorest performing GM dealership in the region, mainly due to the fact that the owner simply didn’t care if he sold a car or not. I once went in there several years later to inquire with the owner if he would like to sponsor a community event, and he just turned around and walked away from me mid-sentence!
They ended up being a victim of the dealer cull, and after that they placed a banner up in their showroom window, that read, “After 83 Years and (I think) Three Generations We Are Forced To Close. Thanks Obama”
They could have competed, but they just didn’t want to, and they aren’t missed here, except by the old-timers that like Buicks and Oldsmobiles. The rest of us just go to Labadie in Bay City now…
Hopefully, small-town dealers like that are exceptions, and ones like Springfield Buick will continue to thrive.
Arnold Palmer Cadillac is a stand alone franchise (although part of the big Bruton Smith enterprise so he can probably financially justify the situation) done in a California Spanish theme.
While trying not to open a can of worms here – it is interesting that they put up a “Thanks Obama” sign – whereas if some people had their druthers and GM totally disappeared I wondered what kind of sign they would have put up then…
When an enterprise is depenent on the POLITICS of the day…it’s always in the balance.
When a business is dependent on pleasing its customer base…and government does not interfere or contort that business…it’s future is assured.
How does a businessman PLAN around the caprices of a government regulator?
He can’t. He can research market demands; he can analyze costs to produce; he can do labor breakdowns. But he cannot make plans against an individual’s mind; or that of a handful; and he has no way of protecting himself against the outcome of an election where the one elected has complete control over his business.
Predictability is critical in business growth. And government interference is anything but predictable.
It always amazes me how mechanical parts for old cars are readily available these days. A day or so wait for most parts for 35 year old cars is amazing to me.
What is also amazing to me, is the chains like AutoZone and Advance seem to provide much better service than the old time independents. I recall many times going into independent places years ago, and basically getting the bum’s rush when I needed a part. It always seemed when you needed a inexpensive part, the rough looking clerk said that he didn’t have it, you have to go to the dealer. One time, I was told to try to find the part somewhere else. That type of service just opened the door for the chains.
Some new car dealers give similar service. About 20 years ago, I happened to see a 67 Eldorado outside a Cadillac dealership. I stopped to look at the car, and two wise guy salesmen came out. Upon inquiring about the price (10K) and asking if I could test drive it, (I had a suit on, and was driving a 84 Camaro), one salesman asked me if I was going to buy it. I replied that I have to think about that. He laughed, “Bye, Bye!” and walked away from me.
At a Lincoln dealer, I once asked if they ever get any clean older models. The guy said they did, but they save them for their friends and family.
Obama and a downturn economy has nothing to do with closing of outfits like these.
Most of that has to do with computerization Dave. That and with the corporatization of the supply chain product is more easily found and distributed. So if you are handy with the computer and/or find a friendly knowledgeable parts person that is willing to go the extra mile you would be amazed. The tradeoff is that unfortunately a lot of the employees at the big chains are either part time or not as career minded and maybe less able to really help. So you really have to look but most stores usually have one or two really knowlegable guys (or ladies). At our shop, we had catalogs back to 1959 and simply punching up the part # I could located any ACDELCO dealer in the country that had one of those parts in stock.
“Obama and a downturn economy has nothing to do with closing of outfits like these.”
Oh,but it does! What didn’t you get about Bush43 and BHO’s bailout of the big 2.5? Those two clowns and every politician elected since Kennedy had everything to do with the culling of car dealerships in the past 6 years. Let’s see. Chrysler and GM shut down a lot of them to get a bigger piece of the cheese. Than there were all of the “old established by white guys&girls” dealers that got thrown into the mix when they didn’t contribute to BHM or the Dims election coffers. The dealer I worked for went under from the banking colapse which was the fault of all of those “fair lending” laws signed by Clinton. Bad business practices were’nt the only sole reason many dealers went under.
Sorry for bringing politics into this thread. Still thinking about that TTAC Volariant thread.
Chrysler had started dealer consolidation before the bailout and it only accelerated into the Great Recession. I’m not saying none of the closings were politically motivated or that all of them were, but that it had been a plan started by Chrysler before the whole mess started.
I believe it actually helped Chrysler during the Great Recession, the dealers that were bought out before 2008 were (in many cases) marginal. When it came time for the Automotive Task Force to market Chrysler, the smaller yet stronger dealer base had to be an advantage.
Or maybe its just because the Big 3 turned out crappy product for so many years that the buyers went elsewhere.
My Regal came from Dick Weaver Buick in Culpeper VA. Didn’t survive the cull. Then there’s Reynolds Buick/Pontiac/GMC in the small of Orange, a little further south. They’re still there, obviously the Pontiac and GMC ends are gone but they added Subaru.
The small dealers are out there, you just need to really look for them.
In Fayette, Alabama, the former Bynum Olds-Pontiac-GMC now soldiers on as a GMC only store.
Many GMC dealers have been able to survive as a stand alone marque because they are an entirely truck-based marque and corresponding profits on vehicles sales are higher in addition to a somewhat more unique market with a high level of commercial business. Interestly, it seems that Buick-GMC is the most common duality for GMC while Pontiac-GMC used to be popular before Pontiac ceased.
There was also re-alignment of dealers so that many Pontiac-GMC places becaem Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealers. They also did some similar Chevrolet-Oldsmobile parings to before Oldsmobile was closed, down here there was a Chevrolet-Buick dealer, a Pontiac-Cadillac dealer and and Oldsmobile-GMC dealer, wihin a year or so when the big dealer consoldiation took place, the Oldsmobile place was closed, the Pontiac-Cadillac place became a Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealer and the Chevrolet-Buick dealer became a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealer.
This sort of discussion is in one sense quite strange as we only had (after the 60’s at least) Ford, Holden & Chrysler dealers, so no convoluted division issues! On the other hand many dealerships these days are multi-franchise if not necessarily on the same site. My home town now has a Toyota, Ford/Hyundai/Kia (since ~10 yr ago), Holden/Nissan (say 20 yrs plus) and Mitsubishi/Mazda (with Mazda for the last 5 yrs, was Chrysler prior to 1980). There used to be a Subaru dealer which was a true family operation, 1 or 2 car showroom, that shut down about 20 years ago. The site is now a McDonalds. Most of the dealerships relocated 30-plus years ago as the town developed, so there aren’t any in their original sites.
Up until a few years ago there was a tiny Ford dealership in a town I regularly drive through, I think it remains as a servicing-only location plus perhaps some used-car sales.
My Dad bought my mother her ’76 Sedan De Ville at Casa De Cadillac. It was the last car she drove.
I would hands down much rather do business with quaint old time clean kept dealers like this instead of the modern, over-sized high pressure gimmicky clone look alike dealers that are popping up all over the place today. Now if only Buick had a more interesting lineup of highly styled vehicles to check out cough Riviera, cough Regal Grand National coupe, cough RWD Roadmaster with V8 power etc.
I agree; in reference to my earlier post about Mound City, Mo-in 1965 we were visiting relatives who lived there, my dad ordered a new Chevrolet over the phone talking with the owner of the dealership. The transaction took about five minutes-if that-my dad told the told the owner what he wanted, what options he wanted-he was quoted a price and that was that. At one time much business was simply done with a handshake, no high pressure.
Try doing that today.
The base engine on the 1961 Chrysler 300 G was the long ram induction manifold putting out 375 HP. The optional engine was a short ram rated at 405 HP.
I missed this one the first time around – great article and very nice to see these folks still in business.
Almost a carbon copy of Rassas Pontiac here in Red Bank NJ. Later became a Buick dealer when Pontiac went out. Pontiac standalone from 1929 to 2009 under the same family. From 1949 at this site. Purchased 3 new cars there – 1999 GP GT, 2002 GA GT and a 2009 G8 GT.
It was sold, torn down and now a Walgreens.
There was an incredibly tiny Chevy store, Bacon Chevrolet, in Greenwich, OH that unfortunately didn’t survive the purge. Showroom was just big enough for one car, and it had a whopping 3 stall service department. Was sad to see it go, I’ve always been a fan of tiny small town dealers.
We have a Ford dealer in a nearby small town (northern NY) that has been in the same location since 1916 or so. Unfortunately, they remodeled the building a couple of years ago and it’s lost most of it’s “time capsule” look.
Maplewood Mo has an antique mall in a crumbling building that was a Buick
dealership for forty or fifty years I would give anything to see it in its prime
I have a sick feeling that the proprietors are clueless about what that place
was and couldn’t care less What a shame
Terry Bentz Buick in Marseilles IL. is a stand alone dealer. All other GM brands (including Buick) as well as almost every other brand foreign and domestic, are sold at various locations around the county by their competition, the Bill Walsh auto group. Back in the late 80s Walsh bought the local Chevy dealership and promptly closed it. The rumor has always been that the previous owner sold the Buick dealership to Bentz for less money than Walsh was offering because he knew Walsh would just close it too. They have a cool old building that was built in the 1800s as an opera house with a vintage neon sign that they found in the basement.
6 years later and they’re still selling Buicks.
Close up of the sign.
Pretty interesting history down here in Brazil. It is not a Buick Dealer, but a VW dealer that is stucked in time. The shop is closed for many year, but its owner goes to the place everyday to spend his time there, cleaning, and even, just remembering the good times. I visited the place some years ago and it is like a time machine. It is located at the city of Estrela (star), in the countryside of the State of Rio Grande do Sul. The city has around 20 k people. It worth to watch to the video. Pretty nostalgic.
Reed Brothers Dodge was open from 1915-2012 near Rockville MD and was the longest running single brand store I have heard of. I visited the delaership once in 1995 to do a car exchange (Neon for a Dakota) and was impressed with the courtesy and lack of hype therein. This is a link for some further info,,,,https://reedbrothersdodgehistory.wordpress.com/cde
there is a small vw dealer in brainerd, mn called auto import. they look completely different than every other vw dealer i have ever seen, just do not have the vw corporate look to their buildings. when i asked the older gentleman working sales why that was he told me that he and the other older salesman started in 1959 before the franchising rules became so restrictive. in other words they have a vw dealership that does not have to look like all the others (for some perspective, on that day i had to walk through a portion of the parts room to gain access to the lavatory!)
my sense is that because of the low volume they do there is no control over which cars are sent their way. often have a lot of base models which is just fine for some folks. got the time? order what you want, it will come.
My dad bought his 1966 Wildcat from Nance Buick, a standalone dealer in El Paso, TX.
In 1940, Jimmy Nance went to work for Buick straight out of high school, and was eventually promoted to Zone Manager in Dallas. In 1951, he bought the franchise in El Paso, and owned it until he sold it to another local dealer in 1975. The chances of someone starting with a company out of high school, sticking with them, and ultimately becoming a dealer are probably zilch today.
As a sucker for things like single screen movie theatres, this dealership appeals to me! I would be very comfortable purchasing a car from such an outlet, shame there arenlt any up here.
Very cool streamline building with the curved corner, and I’m glad to hear that they are still in business and doing well. Hopefully when the new Regal hits the market it will help them move some more metal also. A piece of the past…
Amazing. Too bad that it closed. I just read today that there are only 18 stand-alone Buick Dealerships remaining in the U.S.
The small family owned dealerships are on the endangered species list if not close to extinction. Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, I spent a lot of time in a small town in Northwest, Mo.-Mound City which at one time had three dealerships: Crouse Motors which sold Chevrolet, Pontiac, Chevrolet and GMC (my parents bought several cars there, and the service was always good.) There was Ideker Motors which sold Ford and Mercury cars and Laukemper Motors which sold Dodge cars. The Ford-Mercury dealership’s showroom could accomodate one car and Laukemper operated out of a steel quonset hut, when they got a new shipment of cars they would be parked on the street next to the building. The owner of Crouse Motor sold the dealership sometime in the ’80s I believe, after the 2008 GM bancruptcy it became a stand along Chevrolet dealer, and the Ideker building is now an auto parts store.
Laukemper opened a new dealership around 1990 selling Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep, sometime after the GM bankruptcy they bought the Chevrolet dealership; about 2019 Lukemper sold to another owner who shortly after purchasing the dealership announced he was out of money and closed the dealership.
The building was eventually demolished and is now a Casey’s convenience store, the last time I was in Mound City the former Chevrolet dealership was closed and for sale.
In many respects this reflects the decline of small rural towns across the country. Sad.
Good memories. I hate that so much of America has changed from what it was back in the mid-20th century. But I guess there’s no way to prevent change, whether it’s good or bad. But I love seeing pictures and reading about America back then!
I have fond memories of small town dealerships in Canada & the USA. Gardner GM in Hope, BC were happy to provide me with brochures when we visited in 2018.
Ditto for a small dealer near Kingston ON, in 2011. Their name eludes me, no doubt it will come back to me at 3 AM.
I’d go in, announce that I’m a time waster, and my honesty usually paid off. Or perhaps it was that they didn’t see many Aussies.
August 2022, from google. A sad view….
The tiny local rural Wisconsin GMC dealer that I ordered my current truck from still has the small town vibe, although the building is rather more modern. Nice zero pressure sales
with a completely unhurried atmosphere.
The world’s most time-warped car dealership is undoubtedly this Toyota dealer in Varosha, Famagusta in Cyprus, which still has unsold new 1974 Toyotas in the showroom. A popular tourist destination up to that time alongside a beach, war broke out as Turkish Cypriots invaded Greek Cypriot inhabitants, who quickly fled leaving everything behind, many assuming the fighting would end in a few days or weeks or months. It didn’t and the area wound up being fenced off and guarded by soldiers who wouldn’t let anyone in, leaving then-occupied homes, luxury hotels, and businesses to rot away and become a ghost town (that’s an overly brief synopsis and I probably have some of the details wrong; there is plenty online about the situation there if you want to read further). Anyway, the Toyota dealership as it appeared a few years back (the red sports cars are from an unrelated Japanese showroom and shouldn’t be in the video).