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A Different Way of Selling Cars

1940s Dodge showroom

Lewis Reed (right) in new car showroom talking with a customer

Ask anyone who has been in the car business for a while how they create lasting customer relationships. They’ll tell you it’s through conversation. The benefit of an actual conversation is that it builds engagement, which ultimately builds a relationship between the salesman and the customer. Engagement fosters relationships, which build trust.

Selling cars in the 40’s and 50’s was very different than what it is today. Growing up in the car business, one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to go to the dealership with my grandfather on weekends. My grandfather was always on the showroom floor or walking around the dealership talking with customers and the employees. What I didn’t know at the time, was that by being accessible and not spending a lot of time in his office behind a desk, he was actually building rapport and trust with his customers and employees.

In Lewis Reed’s day, a customer would come into the showroom and sit for hours and talk about local sports teams, the weather or family. But they’d never mention an automobile. Then, the customer would come back, maybe talk a second day. And on the third day, they’d get down to dickering about a car. But it was all cautious, deliberate and very polite.

In the those days, it was unheard of for a salesman to spend the whole day in the showroom. There were no salesman’s desks in the Reed Brothers showroom until after World War II. Lewis Reed allotted specific sales territory to his salesmen in four different directions from the dealership. The salesmen spent all day in the outlying areas of Poolesville, Rockville, Barnesville and Spencerville demonstrating cars to potential customers. At that time, Reed Brothers was selling about eight new cars a month and most sales resulted from knocking on people’s doors. It was direct person to person sales contact, relationship building and trust – all built and sealed on a handshake.

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Happy Birthday Lewis Reed! Founder of Reed Brothers Dodge

Lewis ReedLewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. When Lewis Reed opened his car dealership in October 1915, he never knew he was starting a family tradition that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. He founded what would become the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in the state of Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

Lewis Reed was just 27 years old when he started selling cars built by brothers Horace and John Dodge in Detroit. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer. Reed Brothers was franchised as a Dodge dealership and service facility less than one year after the first Dodge automobile rolled off the assembly line.

Lewis Reed was the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland and his company was the first Gulf gas dealer in the Washington, D.C. area. During the early years, Reed Brothers represented several franchise nameplates along with Dodge, including Oldsmobile, Hudson and Essex. The Hudson and Oldsmobile were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917 through 1921.

Before becoming interested in automobiles, Lewis Reed was one of the original employees of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, a Georgetown-based manufacturing firm that eventually became International Business Machines, Inc. He received his training at the Pierce Arrow factory at Buffalo, New York, the Dodge and Hudson factories at Detroit and the Washington Auto College.

When World War I broke out, Lewis Reed along with many other patriotic men joined the war effort. He did his bit in World War I by working at the Navy Yard in Washington DC as a torpedo tester.

Lewis Reed was very active in his community and in his church. He was a member of the Gaithersburg Grace Methodist Church, where he served as a member and Chairman of the Board of Stewards, a Lay Leader and President of the Men’s Bible Class. He was a charter member and Past President (Feb 1933 – Feb 1937) of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the advisory board of the Rockville branch of the First National Bank of Maryland. Lewis Reed belonged to the Masonic Lodge of Rockville, the Pentalph Chapter of the Eastern Star and the Rockville Rotary Club. He was a Rotarian for 34 years and also had served as President of that group.

Active in the dealership daily until the day of his death, Lewis Reed died on January 28, 1967 at the age of 79. Shortly after his death, the Senate of Maryland passed SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 10 honoring the well-known Rockville automobile dealer for his personality and outstanding contributions. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Thomas M. Anderson, Jr and  Senator Louise Gore. At the time of his death, he was in negotiations with the State Roads Commission on the Commission’s proposal to take over a portion of his business property for construction of an interchange at Rockville Pike, Hungerford Drive and Veirs Mill Road.

In recognition, the state of Maryland named the connector street behind the original location, “Dodge Street,” commemorating Reed Brothers’ presence from 1914-1970. When the state widened the roads in 1970, the dealership relocated to Route 355 at the Shady Grove Metro.

Dodge Street RockvilleWhen you look back and consider what has taken place in the world in the past 100 years or so, you gain a perspective of what Lewis Reed faced. He overcame a lot of obstacles throughout his life. He steered his dealership through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II. When Reed Brothers had no new cars to sell for three and a half years and many dealers went bankrupt, he converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines and other appliances. Reed Brothers Dodge occupied two locations, the original at the Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike intersection and the second at 15955 Frederick Road in front of the Shady Grove Metro.

Lewis Reed set an outstanding example through his success, but more importantly through his sacrifices and commitment to the community he served. Today, Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro Apartments pays homage to the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland with commemorative art on the former site of the iconic Reed Brothers dealership.

Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro

Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro Apartments now stands on the former site of the Reed Brothers Dodge dealership at 15955 Frederick Road. But a sculpture now installed on the property pays tribute to the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history. More than 20 feet high, and over 6 feet wide, the public art is inspired by 1939 Dodge headlamps, and the fender of a 1957 Dodge pickup truck.

Feb 8, 1967: Senate Resolution No. 10

On February 8, 1967, the Senate of Maryland passed SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 10 to honor the memory of Lewis Reed shortly after his death on January 28,1967 at the age of 79. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Thomas M. Anderson, Jr and  Senator Louise Gore.

Senate Resolution

Dedication to Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed

I called him “Pop”

Today marks my grandfather’s birthday. Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge. My grandfather was an amazing man, and he taught me many things during my 17 years of childhood. It’s safe to say out of all the people in my lifetime, my grandfather was one of the most influential people in my life. If he were still around, he would be 128 years old today.

In this special post, I thought I’d take a moment to recount a few of the wonderful memories my grandfather has given me that has helped make me into the person I am today.

Work Ethic

I’ve never met a man who worked harder than my grandfather and I’ve tried to emulate that admirable quality. He went to work every day until the day he died. Some people might have called him a workaholic, but he never gave anything less than 100% to a job or task. He has handed down his natural leadership abilities, which have helped me achieve a number of career “firsts” while I was with the The United States Air Force Band, and ultimately reach the top enlisted position as the first female Command Chief of a premier Air Force unit.

Lead by Example

Growing up in the car business, one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to go to the dealership with my grandfather on weekends. My grandfather was always on the showroom floor or walking around the dealership talking with customers and the employees. What I didn’t know at the time, was that by being accessible and not spending a lot of time in his office behind a desk, he was actually building rapport and trust with his customers and employees. Because of this, I always tried to make myself visible to my co-workers and not be seen as a leader that managed from a distance.

Learning to Change a Flat Tire

This is one of life’s lessons he taught me and one I will never forget. While most little girls were handed a box of Crayola Crayons and a Cinderella coloring book, my grandfather proposed some quality time to teach me how to change a tire. Somehow, the tire on his car had gone flat while sitting in the garage. He taught me step-by-step how to change the flat tire. I’m certainly no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am very grateful to him for seeing the value in teaching me this.

Shooting a Gun

My grandfather taught me how to shoot a .22 rifle back in the 1960’s when I was a teenager. He spent time showing me how to operate the gun, the safety rules of handling the gun, how to aim, and how to slowly pull, not jerk, the trigger. He used to let me shoot the rifle in the basement of his house. I would fire though the door from one end of the finished basement into the unfinished part into a huge block of wood with a paper target on it that would (hopefully) catch the bullet.

Knack for Fixing Things

I seemed to have inherited my grandfather’s knack for fixing things … AND taking them apart. When I got a little older he gave me access to his tools and taught me how to use them. Because of him, when I was about about 14 years old, I completely disassembled and reinstalled all the keys on my brand new saxophone. Oddly, this later led me into a larger role of repairing musical instruments for a local Music & Arts Studio.

Learning to Drive

My grandfather taught me how to drive a car even before I was able to see over the top of the steering wheel. He used to let me reach my foot over from the middle passenger seat to push on the gas pedal. Soon after, he let me sit on his lap and steer. I was barely able to see over the steering wheel, but while he was working the clutch and brake, I was driving!

Work Hard and Don’t Quit

My grandfather’s greatest gift to me was the drive to persevere. When you look back and consider what has taken place in the world in the past 100 years or so, you gain a perspective of what my grandfather faced. He overcame a lot of obstacles throughout his life. He steered his dealership through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II. When Reed Brothers had no new cars to sell for three and a half years and many dealers went bankrupt, he converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines and other appliances. That was proof for me that anything is possible. This example taught me to run with my dreams and never give up. No matter how many times people say it can’t be done, I’ve learned to always follow my dreams.

Conclusion

There are several things that can be done with a person’s legacy. We can completely forget it. We can constantly recount it while never emulating it. Or, we can evaluate it, sift it out, and reap the rewards of putting the positive lessons into practice in our own lives. My grandfather has been gone many years now (48 to be exact). But, he is never gone from my heart. What my grandfather taught me as I grew up — some just very simple things; others are very valuable life lessons that I will never forget. Thanks, Pop!

Happy Birthday Lewis Reed! Founder of Reed Brothers Dodge

Lewis Reed

Today marks my grandfather’s birthday. Lewis Reed was born in Darnestown, Maryland on November 25, 1887 and was the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge.

When Lewis Reed opened his car dealership in October 1915, he never knew he was starting a family tradition that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. He founded what would become the oldest Dodge dealership under the same family ownership in the state of Maryland, and one of the oldest in the entire nation.

Lewis Reed was just a young man when he started selling cars built by brothers Horace and John Dodge in Detroit. Few people jumped onto the Dodge Brothers bandwagon earlier than Lewis Reed, and not many have lasted longer. Reed Brothers was franchised as a Dodge dealership and service facility only one year after the first Dodge automobile was made.

Lewis Reed’s Rockville Garage sold more than just Dodges. During the early years, Reed Brothers represented several franchise nameplates along with Dodge, including Oldsmobile, Hudson and Essex. The Hudson and Oldsmobile were sold at Reed Brothers from roughly 1917 through 1921.

However, his love of cars and entrepreneurial spirit began years before. Prior to World War I, Lewis Reed’s love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Chauffeurs were trained to be proficient with their driving skills, but they also had to keep the luxury automobiles in tip top shape which is where his mechanic training would have come into play. He received his training as an automobile mechanic at the Pierce Arrow factory at Buffalo, New York, the Dodge and Hudson factories at Detroit and the Washington Auto College.

A mechanical aptitude was necessary to be a car dealer in the early 1900′s. When the cars were shipped to the dealer from the manufacturer they were only partially complete and they needed final assembly, so the new dealer quickly became skilled at repair. It was the dealer’s responsibility to assemble the cars at the rail yard and drive them back to the showroom.

Lewis Reed was very active in his community and in his church. He was a member of the Gaithersburg Grace Methodist Church, where he served as a member and Chairman of the Board of Stewards, a Lay Leader and President of the Men’s Bible Class. He was a charter member and Past President (Feb 1933 – Feb 1937) of the Gaithersburg-Washington Grove Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the advisory board of the Rockville branch of the First National Bank of Maryland. Lewis Reed belonged to the Masonic Lodge of Rockville, the Pentalph Chapter of the Eastern Star and the Rockville Rotary Club. He was a Rotarian for 34 years and also had served as President of that group.

Lewis Reed was the first to sell Dodge cars in Montgomery County, Maryland and his company was the first Gulf gas dealer in the Washington, D.C. area.

Active in the dealership daily until the day of his death, Lewis Reed died on January 28, 1967 at the age of 79. Shortly after his death, the Senate of Maryland passed SENATE RESOLUTION NO. 10 honoring the well-known Rockville automobile dealer for his personality and outstanding contributions. The resolution was sponsored by state Senators Anderson and Gore.

At the time of his death, he was in negotiations with the State Roads Commission on the Commission’s proposal to take over a portion of his business property for construction of an interchange at Rockville Pike, Hungerford Drive and Veirs Mill Road. In honor of Lewis Reed, the State of Maryland named the street behind the dealership’s original location, “Dodge Street” because Reed Brothers Dodge was located there for so many years (1914-1970).

Dodge Street in Rockville MD

When you look back and consider what has taken place in the world in the past 100 years or so, you gain a perspective of what Lewis Reed faced. He overcame a lot of obstacles throughout his life. He steered his dealership through World War I, The Great Depression and World War II. When Reed Brothers had no new cars to sell for three and a half years and many dealers went bankrupt, he converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines and other appliances. He held a serious work ethic in the highest regard, and that was not lost on me.

Lewis Reed set an outstanding example through his success, but more importantly through his sacrifices and commitment to the community he served. It is in keeping with Lewis Reed’s spirit, that I proudly honor and preserve the legacy he left as the founder of his family’s 97-year old dealership that spanned three generations and over nine decades.

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