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A FRANCHISE MOVEMENT

First, a bit of history for you: Back in the late 1940s after the second World War, Betty Parnell was introduced to Robert Clyse at the old Ironton–Russell Motors that occupied the corner of Second and Washington streets where the Sherwin-Williams paint store is today.

Clyse must have found two loves at that automobile store. He married Betty and he later went to work at another local car dealership, Jack Wolfe Chevrolet.

Jack Wolfe eventually sold his Chevrolet dealership to the Willis family, who then sold it to Paul Higgins.

On Friday, Clyse’s son, Bob Clyse, bought Higgins Chevrolet, taking the family’s love of cars and its affiliation with an American standard full circle.

Clyse purchased the real estate, some business assets and the Chevrolet franchise, making the name over his door Bob Clyse Chevrolet Buick GMC. He declined to discuss a sale price.

The car dealership has a history of its own. The Higgins family operated the dealership for more than 80 years, first at a location in Willow Wood and then at the location on South Third across from Clyse’s Buick GMC dealership.

Over the years, Clyse said he admired the Higgins family’s business longevity, a timeline that spanned the Great Depression and a World War.

But as the years slipped away, so did members of the Higgins family.

Six months ago, Clyse said an intermediary contacted him and asked if he was interested in purchasing the dealership.

And he was.

“It’s a shame for Ironton not to have a Chevy store and once one is gone it’s not coming back,” Clyse said. “There is a great need for a Chevy store and I thought if I had the chance I should do it.”

More than 60 percent of GMC’s sales is the Chevy brand and Chevy has a large selection of fuel efficient cars — a legitimate consideration in the days of rising fuel prices and an national push toward cleaner, greener automobiles.

Clyse’s plans are to move across the street to the former Higgins property within eight or nine months. He will later give the Higgins faade and showroom a facelift.

He has interviewed roughly half of Higgins’ 20 employees and has hired four. W

hether he keeps more Higgins’ staffers depends on the economy.

He will keep both his current building and the Higgins building, though he is not sure how he will use the Clyse property in the future.

He will eventually lose his detail shop at Second and Monroe streets. That parcel is part of the land acquisition for the Ohio touchdown of the new Ironton-Russell Bridge.

Clyse said his reasons for buying the Higgins dealership are not purely business or selfish. He said he is adamant about investing in the community that has supported him over the years.

“Ultimately, it comes down to the human side of it,” he said.