HISTORY OF THE DILS FAMILY PARKERSBURG WV
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History of Dils Motor Mart
Dils had to Assemble Earliest Cars from parts In the History of Dils Motor Co. Grace S. Dils tells of the beginnings, trials and rewards of the oldest car dealership in West Virginia. The company was founded she wrote, by Sherman Dils Sr. in 1909 with his first car sales being the Thomas Flyer. The next year he applied and became an agent to sell and service the Model T.
According to Mrs. Dils all a person needed back then to become a car dealer were a good reputation hustle, mechanical ability and the ability to show the "Ford Courtesty" as well as cars. No contract was needed just the dealer's word that you would sell all the cars you were given. Sherman Dils was 29 years old when he began the dealership. At that time cars were shipped in parts and had to be assembled in an assembly shop just up the street. The garage was located on 4th Street.
It wasn't long before Dils out grew the location on 4th Street and had to move to a building at 8th and Avery. In 1921-22 a move was again necessary. Dils moved to 7th and Green streets where he built the Motor mart. It took up an entire block and in its time was one of the largest automobile agency in the nation. Two floors were used for selling the Model T which had progressed to self starters in stead of cranks to start the engine.
All fledgling companies have problems and Dils Ford was no exception. In 1925 Ford dropped the price of its cars by $500 with no advanced notice to the dealer. Even worse was when Ford stopped production of Model Ts in 1927 and for six months Dils was stuck with no cars. He often had to supplement the payroll with his own cash to keep his employees. Finally in late November 1927, Ford introduced the Model A, which soon became a hit. Once again Dils was back on track. It was about this time when Dils opened three branches: in Harrisville, Ellenboro and Elizabeth. Cars were shipped into Elizabeth by boat, as the roads were impassable. A boat accident discontinued that after the ship that was Carring the cars sank and dils could no longer get insurance.
The 3Os saw another dils Ford agency in Belpre. The post depression era brought all kinds of problems to dils Ford. The bank moved in on him and took over the Motor mart building and Quaker State took over the two stations . Luckily, a friend leased dils a building to run the agency from. It was here that an IRS man dumped all the parts from the parts bins on the floor because dils couldn't meet the corporate tax. dils Ford slowly recovered and moved to a better locationon 7th Street. The building had been used by Buick dealer who was forced out of business. Mrs. James M. Jackson, a (good friend of the family and owner of the building, put the rent on a pay as you can basis. dils wife, Gaynell Davis dils helped financially anyway she could. During the war years she and Nelson Burwell owned and operated the Gaynell Shop. The store was an exclusive ladies ready- to- wear dress shop.Soon business was running smoothly again. Dils out grew the 7th Street location and built the present Dils Ford at 1601 13th St. in 1949. The area surrounding the new location soon became know as Motor City, thanks to Dils and Mullen Motors, which began their business there in 1948. Five other dealerships and numerous car lots followed. When the new building was established, Sherman Dils Jr only son of Sherman Dils Sr. assumed the man agement. Sherman Sr. died in July, 1949 at 68 soon after the opening of the new building and his 40th anniversary in the Ford business. The business was heavily in debt when the younger Dils took over, but gradually, cars began selling well again and Dils Motor Co. was once more on sound footing. The main facility was expanded to include a new body shop.
In 1957 Dils built a new building to house the just introduced Edsel which soon became a flop. Later the building was used as a Lincoln-Mercury agency, a Sports Car Center that handled Jaguars and Triumphs, and a finance company. Today it is used as a truck center, a get ready service area for new cars and an area for reconditioning used cars. Sherman Dils Jr. made every possible move to keep his company with the times. He formed the D. F. C. Corp. to handle leased cars and trucks as leasing became more popular. As the business expanded he leased a corner lot at 13th and Pearcy and used it as a used care sales and service area. He updated equipment and sent employees to training sessions. Dils wife. Grace and general manager Edward Rice took over the responsibilities of the business when he died in March 1963. at age 53. After two-and-a-half years. Sherman Dils III. or "Buzzie" resumed the positions of general manager and vice president. Grace Dils continued as president and his sister Vicki became a member of the board of directors. Earl R. Smith. who came to work at the company in 1926 as a book keeper. is now office manager and secretary-treasurer.
Floor space and property were expanded in the 70s to keep up with the flow of business. In 1976. Dils Ford was granted a Super Duty Truck franchise. Dils Ford has 69 trained employees and sells around 2800 new and used units annually. It is the 13th oldest Ford dealership in the nation to be co-owned and operated by the same family. Buzzie Dils looks forward to a bright future. and doesn't see much need for any more expansion. I see cars getting smaller he explained. There's no need for bigger buildings and lots. Cars are utilizing space much better now. The car business goes up and down. We're on a plain now. I don't look for it to hit a valley. I look for it. to go up the next two years. he said.
Dils Ford will be here as long as Ford Motor Company is in business. Dils was educated locally and at tended Greenbrier Military Academy. West Virginia University and Glenville State College. Between Schooling and training in the National Guard Reserve Corp, he worked in the Dils dealership. He is on the board of directors of the Ford Dealers Advertising Fund the Pittsburgh representative on the Ford Dealer Council and the Dealer Relations Board of Pittsburgh District. Dils is married to Pamela Enoch Dils and has two children Sherman IV, a senior at Marietta College and Jan a senior at Parkersburg High School.
In the Early 1930s Sherman Dils Turned his second floor of his Motor Mart Ford Dealer ship into the Largest ball room dance hall in the state of West Virginia with 18,000 sq. feet of floor space. that was later known as the Coliseum. it was latter turned into a skating rink
Dils name a Business Tradition in city
Dils Bros. & Co. Dils Ford and the former H. P. Dils & Sons Co. like to keep things all in the family.
Although the three branches of the Dils family are not closely related all three have the same tradition when it comes to running a business.Philip Dils was the first of the family line to migrate from New Jersey to Wood County bringing with him his wife and five of his six children. He remained here until his death in 1800 and his will is the second one on record in Wood County. Philip's son, William, married Arianthe Tunison of New Jersey. They had 12 children. The youngest Henry Hamilton Dils, can be traced directly to the founders of Dils Brothers & Co. and another. Hugh Phelps Dils, is directly related to the founders of Dils Ford and
H. P. Dils and Sons Co.
Henry Hamilton Dils married Ann Logan in 1833. Henry became sheriff of Wood County and served in the West Virginia Legislature in the session of 1869, according to "The History of Dils Brothers" by Edwin L. O. Dils. Their only son was Henry Hamilton Dils Jr. who was born in 1850. Around 1890,Henry Dils Jr. and Jacob M. McKinney, his brother-in-law, began a partnership in the dry goods business. Called "McKinney-Dils, the store operated on Market Street above Fourth until Dils' death in 1895 of typhoid fever.
In March 1900 Dils widow Sarah, and her two sons, Henry and Samuel, opened a store at 425 Market St. The two boys formed the partnership that was to become Dils Brothers & Company one of the oldest area businesses still run by the same family. Hugh Phelps Dils, one of William Dils' sons and Henry Hamilton Dils Sr. brother, worked as a Farmer for most of his life. He and his wife, Susan Logan Oils, had six Children, one of whom was James Wyatt Dils. Oils_and son James opened a mercantile business near Parkersburg.
For many' years, Hugh served as a justice of the peace and as Director of one of the city's banks. He died in 1868. James Oils worked on his father's farm until he was 19. After going into business with his father, he came to Parkersburg and established a general dry goods business. He later switched over to wholesale in 1886. Dils had seven children by his wife, Susan Logan Wealthea Little Dils. He helped to establish the Second National Bank in 1865 and held the office of president of the bank in 1877. He was mayor of Parkersburg and for a time was on the city council.
James Dils Jr and Hugh P. Dils, James sons also went into their father's line of business. In the early 1890s the two brothers were in partnership at the H. P. Dils and Sons Company. Hugh was president, James was vice president, and Hugh's son Sherman was secretary. Sherman, however left H. P. Dils and Sons Company to form his own business, Dils Ford, in 1909. James Oils' son, James III, remained in the family business until its closing inthe 195Os. Sherman Dils, his son Sherman Jr. and the present owner Sherman "Buzzie" III, helped to make Dils Ford a family tradition.
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