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.

Meet Marvin Shultz, Reed Brothers Longest Tenured Employee

Marvin Riggs Shultz Sr

Marvin Riggs Shultz Sr holds the distinction of being the longest tenured employee in Reed Brothers Dodge history, from 1941-1984. Photo courtesy of the Shultz family.

The year was 1941 — Franklin D. Roosevelt was President, the United States officially entered World War II, a first class stamp was five cents, the average price of a new Dodge car was about $800, and for 15 cents, you could buy a gallon of gas.

Things were quite different back in 1941 when Marvin Shultz started working at Reed Brothers Dodge. As Reed Brothers longest tenured employee, Marvin worked for 43 of the company’s 97 years of existence before retiring in 1984 as a new car salesman. Marvin began as Manager of Reed Brothers full service Gulf Gasoline and Service Station when it was located at its original location at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike. The service station carried a full line of Gulf lubricants, Goodyear tires, Willard batteries and many other well known brands of merchandise to meet their patrons needs. In fact, the company was the first Gulf gas dealer in the Washington, D.C. area.

Marvin’s four-plus decades at Reed Brothers spanned some major and minor bumps in the road for the business. The U.S. entry into World War II had led to rationing of gasoline, rubber and anything else critical to the country’s war effort. During that time, Reed Brothers had no new cars to sell for three and a half years. When manufacturers halted car production and many dealers went bankrupt, Reed Brothers converted its car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines and other large appliances to fill the gap.  At the end of the 1940s a gallon of gas cost 26 cents. After the war when new car production started back up, and Reed Brothers once again had new cars and trucks to sell, it continued to grow.

Marvin’s 43 years of tenure puts him among a handful of employees who have worked at both Reed Brothers’ locations, at the triangle at Veirs Mill Road and Rockville Pike and at 15955 Frederick Road Rockville Maryland. He was with Reed Brothers through three renovations and expansions, including demolition of the 1953 service station to make room for a new free standing Gulf Service Station and a new car showroom. At the time, Reed Brothers employed twenty-two people to assist in the operation of the business.

Marvin became a new car salesman in 1965, the same year that Reed Brothers celebrated its 50th Anniversary. He began selling new cars when the average sticker price of a new 1965 Dodge Coronet was about $2,600. When the state widened the roads in 1970, he relocated with Reed Brothers to its new location at 15955 Frederick Road Rockville Maryland. Marvin stuck with Reed Brothers through three recessions, two energy crises and the first Chrysler Bailout and resurgence under Lee Iacocca.

1970s Dodge Sales Meeting

Sales Meeting left to right: Dorsey Howes (Sales Manager), Dale Reed (Salesman), Marvin Shultz (Salesman), Lee Gartner (CEO). In the 1970s, the sales staff wore red blazers with the Dodge emblem on the pocket.

A lot of my memories include fond recollections of Marvin. For us to be able to say that we’ve had anyone work for our company for 43 years is a milestone that is unsurpassed. We should all aspire to do what we love in our work, and I think Marvin’s long history with Reed Brothers is a testament to that.

Chauffeur Lewis Reed Drives Pierce-Arrow Limousines

Lewis Reed as Chauffeur

Chauffeur Lewis Reed (tending to the motor) near Darnestown, Maryland circa 1914. Two ladies with parasols are sitting in an early Pierce-Arrow limousine with a rumble seat. Rumble seat passengers were essentially seated out in the elements and received little or no protection from the regular passenger compartment top.

Lewis Reed understood automobiles. He knew how they worked and how to fix them. He loved cars and anything associated with them. Prior to World War I, Lewis Reed’s love of automobiles led him to becoming a chauffeur. Chauffeurs were not only 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 – a vital skill in the early days of motoring – would have come into play.

Lewis Reed received his training at the Pierce-Arrow factory at Buffalo, New York, the Dodge Hamtramck and Hudson Motor Car factories in Detroit, Michigan, and the Washington Auto College. Pierce-Arrow was once one of the most recognized and respected names in the automobile industry. For 38 years, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in Buffalo, New York, produced some of the finest automobiles made.

The photo above would have to date to the time when Lewis Reed drove as a Chauffeur and before he started the Rockville Garage in 1914. Based on the time frame he drove as a Chauffeur and its appearance, the car in the above photo appears to be an early Pierce-Arrow limousine. If you can help to date it and/or identify the model, please leave a comment. The license plate in the photo below is dated 1914, and I would guess the car to be a 1910 – 1911 Pierce-Arrow Model 48.

Lewis Reed as Chauffeur

1914 – Chauffeur Lewis Reed (left) is shown with a 1910 – 1911 Pierce-Arrow Model 48 and unidentified family

The earliest car owners had no real repair business to turn to. To be a successful motorist in the early 1900s, you needed to have some sort of mechanical skills. Or you had to find someone who did. Wealthy people employed private chauffeur-mechanics to not only drive, but also maintain and repair their large, expensive automobiles — rather than learn to do it themselves. Chauffeurs would be in charge of everything to do with the owner’s motor vehicle including repairs and maintenance and cleaning this meant that early personal chauffeurs had to be skilled mechanics.

With every car sold was a tool box that had the necessary to tools with instructions on how to dismantle and clean each part of the engine. It was recommended to do so after a certain amount of mileage depending on the make of the car, usually around seven hundred miles. When a tire wore out or was damaged, it was recommended that an expert do it, because it was glued to the rim and it took some doing to get it off. The new tire had to be cut to size for they were not always made to fit.

A mechanical aptitude was also necessary to be a car dealer in the early 1900’s. When cars were shipped to the dealer from the manufacturer, they arrived partially assembled in railroad boxcars. It was the dealer’s responsibility to unpack and assemble the cars at the rail yard and drive them back to the dealership. Mechanics were often needed to repair the new cars if they broke down along the way.  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.

Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays!

happy holidaysI would like to take this time to wish you a very Happy Holiday season. Wherever your holiday celebration takes you, I wish all of you a safe, relaxing time spent with family and friends.

The special video I have posted below is without a doubt one of The United States Air Force Band’s finest accomplishments. If you have not yet seen the 2016 Holiday Flash Mob, you are in for a real treat. If you have seen it, watch and listen to it again. You won’t be disappointed I assure you. It was my honor and joy to be a part of this organization for 30 years. I am so proud of their continued accomplishments and so very grateful to have been among their ranks.

The United States Air Force Band Flash Mob broadcast from the  National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian in Chantilly, Virginia.

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.

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