Van Campen Motors has been a mainstay in the Williamsport area for more than six decades. However, if it weren't for World War II, it is an establishment that may have never been.
Charles B. Van Campen began his car dealership journey in Kingston, where he and Richard Bonner were co-owners of the dealership, Bonner and Van Campen. The joint partnership for the Chevy dealership broke up in the aftermath of a country at war.
New vehicle manufacturing was put on hold in the brink of the war. Bonner and Van Campen decided to dissolve their partnership and Bonner purchased Van Campen's shares, changing the dealership name to Bonner Chevrolet.
"My great-grandfather, Charles decide to move to Williamsport and founded Van Campen Motors. We opened up Dec. 14, 1953," said Josh Van Campen, general sales manager.
The goal has always been to keep the dealership in the family. Today, the fourth generations of Van Campen's are living out that dream.
According to Van Campen, his great-grandfather bought the Dodge-Plymouth-Dodge Truck franchise from its current owner W.U. Mussina directly following the opening of the new dealership.
"He picked up Dodge. At the time it was limited space, limited cash and limited capital. As we continued to grow, he knew that we had a service to provide to the customers and we were darn good at providing that service," Van Campen said.
During war time, the only vehicles available were used vehicles.
"During the war, you couldn't get new cars because all of the manufacturing was based on war production. There was a huge backlog at that time because used cars is all that was out there. If you wanted a new car, there was actually a waiting list," said George Wurster, dealership general manager.
Following the end of the war, the demand for new cars and household incomes due to the women joining the work force increased. So, did the car industry, according to Wurster.
In the 50s, the dealership picked up the Plymouth and a vehicle called, Simca. In the early 90s, the dealership picked up Chrysler, which was followed by Suzuki in 2000 and Jeep came on board two years later. Now, 66 years and three generations later, the dealership is one of Williamsport's most stable businesses, with growth constantly on the horizon. According to Van Campen, the business has 32 employees and has remained stable during the questionable economy. In fact, they sell an average of 60 cars a month, vehicles sold are both new and used.
"This is the best year in seven years," Van Campen said. "Cash for Clunkers certainly helped. We were already having a record year before Cash for Clunkers. Cash for Clunkers kind of put the cherry on top."
Understanding the customer is an important part of the dealership's success, according to Wurster.
"The car business is always changing. It is a constant struggle to keep up and keep putting a fresh face on things. We really think what has made it a success is concentrating on the customer, especially in our service dapartment. It is the small hometown approach to family business. It's a personal touch," Wurster said.
According to Van Campen, the dealership will continue to expand through the years. "If your not expanding, your dying," he said.
Individuals interested in contacting the dealership at 601 W. Third St., may do so by calling 326-0567 or accessing the Web site at www.vancampenmotors.com.