A growing number of America’s new-car dealers have been in business for more than 100 years. Some, ranging from wagon makers to bicycle shops to general stores, were established before the advent of mass-produced “horseless carriages.” Others affiliated with manufacturers directly once word spread about these newfangled machines and the possibilities they presented. The NADA Century Award celebrates these remarkable dealers.
B. Glockner began its 176-year history as a hardware store and bicycle and carriage shop. In 1893, Alex Glockner founded the Portsmouth Cycling/Motorcycle Club, which is recognized as the oldest motorcycle club in the country. In 1914, Alex Glockner obtained a Chevrolet franchise. The hardware store went bankrupt during the Great Depression, but the sixth generation of Glockners continue to run 15 dealership locations, selling cars and trucks from nine manufacturers today.
S.G. Smith had a strong entrepreneurial spirit. He was a farmer, cotton broker and theater owner before becoming a general store owner. Smith Ford, the oldest automobile dealership in Arkansas, began selling “horseless carriages” out of that general store in 1916. Since then, S.G.’s wife became the first woman elected to public office in the state, four generations have served as board chair for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, and the dealership has sold every Ford from the Model T to the Model e.
Don Moore Automotive Group
The year was 1919 and four brothers decided to venture into the burgeoning automobile industry just as it was about to boom. The first Chevy arrived at their store on February 2, 1920, and marked the first sale of an enclosed automobile in western Kentucky. The auto group became a household name with its 1980s TV commercial campaign. “It’s Hot Don” became a common regional saying and was later highlighted nationally as the most-recognized regional tagline of any commercial in the nation by a few top-of-mind awareness studies.
After World War I, Maurice Schwartz began his auto career with trucks and military vehicle franchises, before becoming central New Jersey’s Chrysler and Plymouth dealer. Since then, three generations of Schwartzes have worked at the dealership. Maurice’s grandsons, Jim and Jon, became local legends for their zany TV commercials parodying pop culture hits like Wayne’s World and Star Wars. Jay Schwartz says their management style is: “If we take care of our employees and they take care of the customers, it’s a pretty good circle.”
Auto dealer Winslow Felix used his social connection with the creator of Felix the Cat, a popular character in the “funny papers,” to cross-market their brands. Through his active civic life, the dealer became close friends with the cartoon’s creator, Pat Sullivan. The dealership’s iconic Felix the Cat signage made it a landmark, and since the L.A. riots in 1992, the store has become a shining 27-acre keystone to the revitalization of historic Figueroa Street.
Sax Motor Co.
It’s a classic immigrant success story. Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Saxowsky left Mindon, Germany, and settled in Hebron, N.D., in 1888. Their son, Fred, would become the first of four generations thus far to own and operate Sax Motor Co. in Dickinson, N.D. Seeing customers smile as they leave the dealership-and return time and time again over the years-is the most satisfying part of the business, says current dealer-operator Christian Kostelecky.
Rob Sight Ford & Bob Sight Ford
Kansas City, Mo.
The Sight dealership business-comprising Bob Sight Ford, Bob Sight Kia and Rob Sight Ford-celebrates 100 years of serving the Kansas City area. Jack Sight opened Sight Brothers Chevrolet in 1923 with his two brothers, Dave and Harry, joining him to work in the dealership. Today, the family’s Ford stores may be competitors in the same market, but the familial competition only pushes them to out-do each other in customer service and community support.
It is a marriage arranged by corporate proposal. General Motors’ “Project 2000” wanted dealerships in the same market to consolidate. Sullivan Chevrolet was the only compatible partner in town for Parkhill Motor Sales, but it had Volvo, which Chevrolet didn’t want in one of its stores. And Oldsmobile and Cadillac did not want Mercedes-Benz in the same store. In the end, the merger of the two created Sullivan-Parkhill Automotive, the region’s largest Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillac dealer, and Sullivan-Parkhill Imports, selling Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles.
Theodore Robins Ford
Costa Mesa, Calif.
Theodore Robins Sr. seized an opportunity to claim the first Ford franchise in Orange County, Calif., after establishing himself as a service garage owner. Son Bob joined him in repair service when he was 14 years old. Their entrepreneurial spirit and background in repair service is what helped keep the family in business during the Great Depression and World War II. The legacy lives on in the family tradition of hard work and serving the community.
Dealerships that have been in the transportation business for 100 years or more can apply for the NADA Century Award at nada.org.
This year, NADA celebrates nine new dealerships that have become Century Award members. Each will be honored at NADA Show 2024 in Las Vegas.
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