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Clyse seeks to buy Chevy franchise

Ironton has been home to a Chevrolet dealership for nearly 20 years and — pending General Motors approval — that will continue, although with new but familiar ownership.

Bob Clyse, owner of Bob Clyse Buick-GMC, has reached a tentative agreement to purchase the property and the Chevy franchise operated by the Higgins family for more than 80 years.

“We have a buy-sell agreement and are awaiting General Motor’s approval,” Clyse said. “We do anticipate approval and have had a tremendous relationship with GM over the last 40 years.”

Clyse said he anticipates having an answer within 30 days.

Phillip Ratliff, manager at Higgins, said several weeks ago that a potential sale was possible but declined to give any specifics or a timeline.

When reached Wednesday, Ratliff said he still couldn’t share any details about specific plans. Currently, Higgins employs about 20 people.

The sale is for the Higgins company’s assets — this includes the Ironton car lot property, the building and all new car inventory — but doesn’t mean that Clyse is taking over the operations of the current dealership.

“Our initial intentions are to operate out of our present facility for six to 12 months and eventually move everything across Third Street,” he said, adding that he anticipates making significant facility improvements.

For Clyse, the pending sale is somewhat bittersweet because it brings the end of an era for the Higgins franchise. Also, Clyse’s father once worked for Wolfe Chevrolet at the Higgins location.

Higgins opened in 1928 in Willow Wood before moving to Ironton in the 1980s. It was operated by three generations of the Higgins family.

“That is something that any small business person can admire,” Clyse said. “That is quite a feat.”

Even during these uncertain economic times for the automobile industry, Clyse said he just felt that keeping a Chevy dealership in town was the right thing to do.

“The people of Ironton, Lawrence County and the entire Tri-State have been good to us,” he said. “I think there is a significant need to have a Chevrolet franchise here in Ironton.”

Hamilton Chevrolet operates in Proctorville.