Dealership survives floods and downturns

MONTGOMERY – A local business that started as a blacksmith shop more than 100 years ago and now operates as a car dealership has not only endured, it has flourished.

In fact, Hulsizer Chevrolet is now the oldest Chevrolet car dealer in all of Pennsylvania.

Bill Schneck represents the fourth generation of his family to operate this dealership.

And it continues to do business out of the same location where it started in 1900 where his great-grandfather was pounding out horseshoes.

“We got a lot of history here,” said Schneck.

Schneck, 63, sat at his desk just off the showroom along Route 54, poring over old photographs of the dealership.

They included pictures of family members, vintage cars and employees through the years.

He pulled out old ledgers of car sales from years ago.

Ledger pages from the year 1915 showed sales to various customers – all of them Montgomery residents.

Times were different then, when being in business really meant serving local customers.

In many ways, that small town, local customer outreach hasn’t changed.

It’s still a family business too, and Schneck seems to have no regrets that he became part of it more than 30 years ago.

And yet, he recalled how the family’s legacy of selling cars nearly came to an end.

“I graduated from the University of Richmond,” Schneck said. “I had a good job.”

At the time, Schneck felt no strong pull to go into the family business back in Montgomery. He was making good money as an engineer with International Harvester.

“I wanted to be on my own,” he said.

But his father, DelRoy Schneck, had different ideas. He called his son and asked him to come work for him.

“I asked him how much it paid,” recalled Schneck. “I just blurted it out.”

Schneck decided to work for his father. For two years, he was a salesman.

And then, his father died.

That put the younger Schneck suddenly in charge of the family business. It was the early 1980s, and the economy was going through a rough time.

“I said to myself, ‘if I can make it through the next few years.’ “

Schneck did see the business through the next few years and beyond. But he doesn’t give himself much credit.

“It’s good employees and good customers,” he said.

He felt he’s had the sort of employees who care for their customers, treat people fairly and are there when you need them.

The results?

“We are selling cars to third- and fourth-generation customers of families,” he said.

Schneck proudly displayed the many awards garnered by the dealership over the years. He pointed to an area in of the business given over to trophies captured by the different Little League teams and other organizations that Hulsizer has sponsored over the years. He grabbed a photo of a car that the dealership donated to the Montgomery School District.

“We’ve always been part of the community,” he said.

The dealership has come a long way from the blacksmith shop started by his great-grandfather LeRoy Hulsizer more than a century ago. And yet, it has for years remained that small dealership in Montgomery. Schneck likes the location a couple of miles off Route 15. He has, he said, no great need to expand the dealership to other communities.

Over the years, the dealership has survived world wars, the Great Depression, recessions, and more than a few floods. Hulsizer’s sits just a stone’s throw from Black Hole Creek, which often over-runs banks during flooding.

“We all know what to do when we get water in here,” he said with a smile.

There was also the prospect of what looked to be even a closure of the dealership several years ago. It came about when the Obama Administration, as part of the auto industry bailout, decided it wanted to scale down the number of affiliate dealerships connected to each company. But Hulsizer managed to survive that as well.

Just running the business for so many years has been rewarding, he said.

And he’s very proud of that his three children have gone on to successful careers in veterinary medicine, the law and mechanical engineering. As a grandfather, he’s hopeful that someone in the family will eventually step up and take over.

But as he put it: “I’m not ready to retire.”