End of an era: Higgins Chevrolet employees share memories

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 28, 2010

For more than 80 years, the name over the door read “Higgins Chevrolet” and the three generations of the Higgins family seemed like family to the employees who worked at the car dealership.

This week, most of the 20 employees at Higgins Chevrolet said goodbye to each other and to the South Third Street business as they knew it.

The dealership changed hands Friday when businessman Bob Clyse purchased the franchise, building and some of the assets.

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Higgins Chevrolet was a Lawrence County institution. The business started in 1928 in Linnville.

According to the 1990 edition of the History Of Lawrence County, Ohio, the late Walter I. Higgins began the enterprise in his garage on State Route 217.

When cars were difficult to obtain during World War II, he sold farm equipment.

Walter Higgins’ sons, Paul and Ralph, eventually joined their father at the dealership.

Paul Higgins later passed the business to his son, Eugene, who, along with his mother, Doris Higgins, died in 2008.

Melvin Trowbridge worked for Higgins Chevrolet 27 years as a technician. He and his wife, Joy, helped drive the cars from the Linnville location to Ironton when the business moved into town in 1983.

He said he will have fond memories of those 27 years.

“They were good people to work for,” Trowbridge said of the Higgins family. Trowbridge had retired but came back in work in August 2009 on a part-time basis.

He said he will try retirement again but thinks the slower pace will be a big change for him.

“I hope Bob Clyse does well,” Trowbridge said. “I wish the best for him.”

Phil Ratliff started working at Higgins in 1988 as a finance manager and worked his way up to general manager.

“Everything I know about the car business I learned here,” Ratliff said.

Like Trowbridge, Ratliff said he will miss the job.

“Everyone around the garage is more like family,” he said. “A lot of them are my best friends.”