Greenville Ford to close doors Friday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2001

After 70 years of operating in Greenville, the Ford dealership is closing its doors this Friday, and 11 people will be unemployed.

"Luckily, a few people have been able to line something up," said Benny Long, finance manager. "People are already looking, and several of the mechanics have found something."

"There was a buyer who was interested in purchasing the company, but he just couldn't get the financing for the floor plan or for the vehicles," said Long.

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"We just haven't been as profitable as we need to be," said Paul Hopper, president and dealer of Greenville Ford, LLC, who took over the company in 1995. "When we looked at the state of the economy, especially in Butler County, we decided to go ahead with the closing."

"I've been in this business for a long time," said Ricky McLaney, director of the Butler

County Commission for Economic Development. "I have never had a December that has been so busy. The economy is good and is looking up, and I expect 2002 will be a great year."

"It's been fun here," said Long. "It's a lot different than the Air Force and it's really sad for us to be closing. We have a really great customer base, and really great employees, such as Mike Arthur, a salesman who has been here since 1990, and Joe Elijah, another salesman who has been here since February 1997 and drives from Hope Hull everyday."

"We have been fortunate to have had a great group of people working with us and we really appreciate the customers that have supported us," said Hopper.

According to the Ford corporate headquarters, the company has no plans to bring a new franchise to the Camellia City.

"It's a really sad day," said Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon. "I just hate that this has happened. The economy is not what it needs to be in the state or in the nation."

The Ford dealership has a long history in Greenville. It was originally opened in the 1940s, according to Bill Lewis who began working at the dealership in the parts department in 1956. "The original dealer was Beeland Motor Company and it was opened by Mr. Roy Clement," said Lewis. "He bought it and then later purchased the current property and we were open for business here in this building in 1946. Interestingly enough, the company opened the first year cars were for sale for retail after the war.

"I've been behind this counter for a long time, since I was 16," Lewis said. "I've seen a lot of changes. I remember the first day I started working, my supervisor told me to answer the phone and I didn't want to tell him, but I wasn't sure which end to talk into

it was the first time I had ever talked on a telephone.

"There have been a lot of people who have come through here," Lewis added. "People such as Mr. Shelton Mallette, who was once parts manager, Mr. Buster Brown, who was the service manager, Mr. Mac Dunn, who was a mechanic, Mr. Julius Hughes, also a mechanic, Mr. Mac Pouncey, a salesman, and Mr. Bud Cain, who was in sales. I learned the trade from Mr. Dunn, Mr. Brown and Mr. Clements

they told me all the things I needed to know about Ford parts.

"You know, the younger ones now, they laugh about the way we used to do things. It really shows me that times have changed," said Lewis.

Lewis added that the closing of the company is sad for both him and the community. "The greatest impact will be the convenience for Greenville Ford owners, but the biggest impact will be that a landmark is gone. You never knew Greenville without a Ford company. Just the absence will make a difference."