HOISINGTON — After nearly a century of service, a Hoisington automobile dealer will be changing its name and will also have a new owner. Manweiler Chevrolet will become Ehler Chevrolet LLC, effective Nov. 2.
Manweiler Sales Manager Micah Ehler purchased the 92-year-old, family-owned Chevy dealership. The sale was approved by General Motors (GM) last week. Ehler has worked at Manweiler Chevrolet for 10 years.
“My wife has been urging me to sell the business for about two or three years,” said owner Gene Manweiler, who is a fourth-generation employee of the company. “The plan was for me to work until I turned 70 and receive full-time Social Security benefits.” Manweiler said the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 43-year employee to change some of those retirement plans. “COVID really pushed those plans up a little early. I just didn’t want to have to worry about employee or customer safety or my own personal safety or potentially having to shut down the business,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate so far in that none of our staff have come down with the virus and business operations have not really been affected.”
Time and strength of the business were major contributing factors in bringing the sale to fruition.
Manweiler also added that current low interest rates were also reason to proceed with the sale. “It just provided a good time for Micah and I to continue discussions and go through with the plan,” he said.
According to Manweiler, the company has employed 224 people since opening its doors in 1928. “There are not a lot of businesses that can boast of those kind of figures,” he said. “When we hire folks we hope they retire here.”
Ehler said he and Manweiler discussed the possibility of selling the company to Ehler during his job interview in 2010. “My first day at Manweiler was March 1 of 2010,” Ehler said. “I had already had plans to open a car business when I visited with Gene’s wife about coming to work.”
Prior to his arrival in Hoisington, Ehler was a law enforcement officer in Amarillo, Texas.
He said one of the biggest obstacles of purchasing the business was working through issues with GM. “Let me just say it was beyond a roller coaster experience,” said Ehler. “It was a ninth-month ordeal of super highs and super lows and Gene can also attest to the headaches that were brought on in dealing with GM.”
Manweiler added, “I don’t think folks realize just how deep the bureaucracy can be. It was just one hurdle after another.”
Ehler said any changes that come with the new ownership will be minimal.
“Obviously it’s going to take some time for me to get my feet wet,” he said. “I’ll work with the employees to make sure that the transition is as smooth for them and our customers as possible.”
Manweiler Chevrolet is the largest tax revenue-producing retail business in Hoisington. “This transaction is huge for our town,” Manweiler said. “If this dealership ever closed its doors, it would be a huge blow to the local economy.”
Through the years, Manweiler said his appreciation has grown being able to work in the family business.
“When I was young, I never thought working with my father was all that special,” he said. “But as he got older and I got older, I realized just how special it really was. Most folks really don’t see the value in those things until they get older.” When asked what he will miss most about going to work, Manweiler said it will be interacting with his employees and customers.
“Our clients and staff are just amazing people,” he said. “I’m looking forward to visiting with some of the other ‘old timers’ and reminiscing about some of the interesting folks who have come across our path.”
And as the old Chevy slogan suggests, in Hoisington, the Manweiler name will always be “Like a Rock.”
• 1928 – Francis Byron Slade (Gene’s great-grandfather) purchased Johnson Chevrolet at 167 West 1st in Hoisington.
• 1937 – August Manweiler and Wayne (Bunk) Maupin purchased Slade Chevrolet from their father-in-law, F.B. Slade. FB Slade financed the sale of his dealership to his sons-in-law. August Manweiler is approved by Chevrolet to be the dealer operator of Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet.
• 1938 – Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet expands to a larger store located at 204 N. Main, Hoisington.
• World War II created an especially severe hardship on automobile dealers but the family dealership, Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet, built a state-of-the-art deco style modern Chevrolet store. August Manweiler foresaw the need for car sales immediately following the war. He and Bunk built their new dealership at 271 S. Main in 1944. The grand opening was July 1, 1944.
• 1944 – The business built its streamlined moderne art deco Chevrolet dealership. Since building supplies were in short supply, such as plywood and steel, the roof of the dealership was built with existing, pre-manufactured bridge trusses.
• 1945 - The art deco neon Chevrolet bow tie was installed on the front of the new Chevrolet dealership. The sign cost was $1,695, which was about 10% of the cost of the new building the year before.
• 1953 – August Manweiler buys out Wayne (Bunk) Maupin’s shares of Manweiler-Maupin Chevrolet and the store becomes Manweiler Chevrolet Co.
• 1962 – August Manweiler receives a prestigious award from Chevrolet recognizing him for being a Chevrolet dealer for 25 continuous years.
• 1965 – Larry Manweiler buys into the family business purchasing 10% of the stock from August Manweiler.
• 1965 – March 10, Larry Manweiler is approved by Chevrolet to be the dealer operator for Manweiler Chevrolet.
• 1967 – Chevrolet’s first Camaro was unveiled. This is also the first year Gene Manweiler started working at Manweiler Chevrolet, dusting parts bins.
• 1968 – Lillian Slade passed away. She was the first office manager of the family Chevrolet business and wife of FB Slade. The couple raised two daughters in the Chevy business also. Both Dorothy (Dot) and Violet performed bookkeeping duties.
• 1976 – Gene Manweiler graduates from Kansas University and starts working for his father, Larry Manweiler.
• 1984 – Dec. 7, Dorothy (Dot) Slade Maupin, wife of Wayne Maupin, passed away.
• 1988 – December 30, Wayne (Bunk) Maupin passed away.
• 1989 – August Manweiler sells his remaining 150 shares of Manweiler Chevrolet Co. to Gene Manweiler.
• 1990 – Larry Manweiler is recognized with the honor and award from Chevrolet as being a Chevrolet dealer for 25 continuous years.
• 1990 – Chevrolet approved Gene Manweiler to be the third dealer operator of Manweiler Chevrolet.
• 1993 – Sept. 26, August Manweiler passed away.
• 2002 – Sept. 9, Violet Slade Manweiler (August Manweiler’s wife) passed away.
• 2009 – May, the infamous General Motors “Black Friday.” Dealers across the nation received FedEx messages informing them that GM will no longer be conducting business. However, Manweiler Chevrolet was the only dealer in a seven-county area that GM chose to continue to do business.
• 2010 – Chevrolet builds its first electric car. Manweiler Chevrolet becomes the only central Kansas Chevy Volt dealer after spending $10,000 in training and essential, special tools to repair the Volt. They sold ONE Volt.
• 2012 – Chevrolet develops a new program and attempts to enforce it on all Chevy dealers that survived dealer cuts. The program required dealers to make aggressive remodeling to their building exteriors and interiors.
• 2012 – Oct. 9, Manweiler Chevrolet gained acceptance and was added to the National and Kansas State Register of Historical places. The honor allowed the company to keep its World War II streamline moderne art deco historic exterior unaltered. It also allowed the neon Chevy bow tie to remain on the top front of the building. The interior of the dealership was remodeled according to Chevrolet’s EBE program compliance.
• 2013 – Sept. 25, Larry Manweiler passed away.
• 2014 – Kansas Preservation Alliance recognized Manweiler Chevrolet as the second-place winner in the state for preserving historic buildings. The Kansas State Capital building won the top honor but Manweiler Chevy still received a bronze medallion award from the committee. Ruby Manweiler (mother to Gene) and Gene and Paula Manweiler accepted the award.
• 2015 – Chevrolet presents Gene Manweiler the prestigious Chevrolet Award for 25 continuous years as a Chevy dealer.