W. Hare & Son, one of the country’s oldest transportation dealerships, resides in Noblesville, Indiana, a few miles northeast of Indianapolis. The company continues to hold the title of the country’s longest-lived family-owned vehicle retailer. Today the Chevrolet dealership sells about 300 cars per month and employs 150 people. You can follow a record of its history through the murals around the walls of the main showroom.
The company’s story started in 1847, which beckoned Easterners to join the westward movement in the search for gold in California. Entrepreneurs like Wesley Hare knew how to make money from these events. He started building wagons, carriages and buggies out of his log cabin in Noblesville. Westbound travelers stopped here for their wagons. Soon he had a thriving business and added 45 employees.
The company gained its current name shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865, when he handed the business to his son E.M., who moved the operations into a four-story building, then the second-largest structure in town. The manufacturing output soon grew to about 700 buggies annually.
At the turn of the century, E.M. envisioned a great future with the advent of the new-fangled automobile. He started selling upstarts with names like Hupmobile, Studebaker and Cadillac. By 1912, these automobiles comprised most of his business. Bill Hare then signed a Chevrolet exclusive contract in 1921.
Like most other businesses, the Great Depression hit hard. Hare had to rely on its towing service to make ends meet. But, the dealership survived through these lean times.
Hare faced another nearly fatal blow during World War II. All U.S. car manufacturers stopped production of cars in order to concentrate on equipment for the troops. Hare had no cars to sell for three and a half years. Survival meant the dealership had to rely on lube jobs, tune-ups and tire sales.
Today the dealership has weathered all the past and present economic difficulties. In order to remain competitive, Hare had to keep up with the current marketing trends. Current managers Courtney Cole and Monica Peck, who are the great-great-great granddaughters of Wesley Hare, offer 50 service stalls, a photo booth for online ads, and hundreds of new Chevrolets in its sales lot.
The company still recognizes the importance of its past. As a reminder, one of Wesley Hare’s buggies hangs over the entrance to the showroom.
For more information about Indiana’s car culture follow this link.