Ross Township has long been known as a “one stop shopping” destination. From the early days of Downtown Perrysville to today’s McKnight Road corridor, everything has been at one’s fingertips (with the possible exception of a diverse array of restaurants and grocery stores). However, one item is tough to buy in Ross or West View: new cars.
Sure, there are a few dealers, but most of the car shops are in Wexford, where Baierl and Wright have run empires for years. However, Ross lost one of its notable dealers recently when Demor’s Lincoln-Mercury closed its doors shortly after the demise of the Mercury brand. The site was retooled to accommodate a huge GetGo, which opened this week. With plenty of Lincolns and Mercuries returning to the site for fuel and sandwiches, a look back at the great dealers of Ross and West View seems mandatory.
Brant Oldsmobile. No discussion of North Hills car dealers would be complete without mention of Brant Oldsmobile, an early dealer originally located along Horsehoe Bend in West View. The store later moved to the intersection of Route 19 and Bellevue Road, closing sometime around early 1992. (I have been unable to locate a specific date but the latest car I spotted sporting one of Brant’s distinctive tags was a 1992 Eighty Eight). Brant was believed to have been an offshoot of the other Brant Brothers businesses in the area, which included a large general store. Throughout its over six decades of operation, Brant sold plenty of Cutlasses, Toronados, Eighty Eights, Ninety Eights, and even a few 442s. Baierl would pick up an Oldsmobile dealer to compliment the former MacKay Cadillac when Brant ceased operations. Sadly, the Oldsmobile brand was beginning to lose momentum by the early 1990s, leading to its untimely death. The final car, an Alero, was produced in 2004.
Jim McKain Ford. Located just a bit south of Brant Oldsmobile was the local Ford shop. Originally owned by the Balthazar family, this was the only place for Blue Oval enthusiasts until the opening of McCrackin Ford on McKnight Road (discussed next). This family-run dealer was well-regarded by residents in the day, selling everything from Fairlanes to Mustangs to F-series pickup trucks. The dealer eventually employed a man named Pat Barden, who would become a part-owner as the dealer relocated to Wexford sometime around the late 1970s, becoming Barden-McKain Ford. This name would remain for two decades before changing to Wexford Ford and eventually Shults Ford, which it continues to operate as today.
McCrackin Ford. “Try me first, try me last, just try me!” Those words would serve as the catchphrase to lure customers into the township’s only Ford dealer following McKain’s move, hoping customers would take well to the “jellybean” Taurus when it debuted over a quarter century ago. Although the building has been vacant for nearly a decade, it continues to stand along McKnight Road. For years after the dealer’s closure, a decoy police car was parked in front of the building (although any car enthusiast could tell it was an older model Ford Crown Victoria, far more antiquated than any car the local police departments had been using).
Wright Pontiac. Nearly everyone associates Wright Pontiac with Wexford, where the dealer continues to operate as a Buick and GMC franchise following the death of another great GM marque. However, those wanting a GTO or Catalina in the day went to West View, where the business began. Located in a building which today is a florist (near West View Park Drive), Wright Pontiac had the famous chief logo on the side of this building and displayed their hot new model in the round window facing Perry Highway. Although it moved decades ago, plenty of longtime residents can still recall picking up a fast set of wheels at the original shop.
North Hills Chrysler-Plymouth. I actually saw a rear-drive Fifth Avenue wearing a badge from this dealer a few years ago. Back when Lee Iacocca was serving as Chrysler’s savior, discontinuing outdated models in favor of K-Cars and minivans, North Hills Chrysler-Plymouth outfitted local residents with Reliants (complete with the K badge!) and early Voyagers, the original mommobiles (typically sold with woodgrain trim and actually available with a manual transmission). The dealer eventually became Mick’s and continues to be the home of “Quick Mick” to this day. However, the brands sold at the dealer have changed. Mick’s picked up a Jeep-Eagle franchise following the Chrysler-AMC merger. Plymouth, like many other great car brands mentioned already, was phased out. Recently, Mick’s began selling Dodges, making up for the demise of...
Ross Park Dodge. So you want a Chrysler product but prefer a Ram truck or want an Eagle Premier with a classic nameplate (Dodge Monaco)? Maybe you want to test-drive a Viper or Stealth? Head south one intersection to Ross Park Dodge, where Chrysler’s other division sold countless Caravans, Dynasties, Omnis, and even a Diplomat or two. The dealer eventually became a casualty of Chrysler’s later struggles and was later purchased by Baierl to become the new location of their Kia dealer.
Davis Toyota. This was the original name of North Hills Toyota, which built on a site at one time known for the last remaining home in the McKnight business district. North Hills Toyota eventually bought the former Amarraca site as well, using it as a service facility and satellite lot.
Demor’s Lincoln-Mercury. For four decades, Demor’s was the region’s Mercury and Lincoln outfitter and threw in a bonus with each new car: a customized front license plate. Drivers could have their name or nickname spelled out in white letters against a black plate sporting the name of the dealership in script writing at the base, adding a unique personalized touch to their new Cougar, Lynx, Sable, Continental, or Town Car. The dealer was never large, but was always family-run and had a fairly good selection o vehicles given the lot size. However, the writing was on the wall when the Mercury brand was discontinued two years ago. Local Lincoln operations were consolidated into Shults Ford’s Wexford location as Demor’s shut down, causing great sadness among those who had made purchases there. Demor’s was torn down to make way for the new GetGo station.
It seems unlikely Ross will gain another car dealer anytime soon. The Detroit-based companies have eliminated marques and reduced their dealer networks. Japanese companies have been a mixed bag. While Toyota and Honda continue to enjoy success, they have had their share of recent blunders, including the Toyota recall and the 2012 Honda Civic fiasco. Suzuki, meanwhile, announced they would stop selling new automobiles in the United States. Unless a marque with no North Hills presence such as BMW can make its mark in Ross (BMW would actually compliment the current incarnation of Ross Park Mall quite nicely), it seems as though the days of Ross and West View being viable places for dealers are in the past. Wexford has everything a smart car shopper could want if they’re not in the market for a Chrysler product, Kia, or Toyota. Thankfully, we still have plenty of memories of the great dealers of years past, plus lots of fast old cars to go along with them.
NEXT TIME: “Coming Spring 1994”. That was the wording of a sign standing in Spring 1998. What was this aborted building project and will it ever be completed? Find out next time on North Hills Flashback!