Timeless Service Spans Decades
28 Nov 2021
The Clark family dealership in Pinehurst celebrates 50 years
By RAY LINVILLE » Photos by Brandon Williams
Can you picture American roads 50 years ago? That’s not so hard for those of us who began driving even before 1971.
What were the dream cars that year? For me, it was the Chevrolet Impala that as a junior officer in the Air Force I couldn’t afford. The standard engine for the sports coupe was a 245-horsepower, 350-cubic inch V8. With a semi-fastback roofline, this model was every young driver’s dream.
One of the best-selling American-made automobiles, the Impala saw many changes in its design over the decades as well as breaks in production until the final one was built on my birthday in 2020. Obvious changes in our car buying patterns caused a decline in the popularity of full-size sedans and an increased production of crossover SUVs.
Anticipating these changes and responding to them in a timely manner has been the Clark family way, where for the same 50 years their Pinehurst dealership has met the car needs of the Sandhills.
“Because of these changes, some brands are no longer on the road. Chevrolet has always been a very, very strong brand. Cadillac has made a nice resurgence, and I feel very optimistic about its future,” said Troy Clark, the dealer-operator of the family business.
Clark has been the area’s hometown GM dealership since 1971, and it has long recognized the importance of serving the community as well as its customers. As a small-town family business, it nurtures relationships that a large dealer group cannot.
Opening for business on November 15, 1923, the dealership was originally known as The Pinehurst Garage. What cars were sold initially? Not surprisingly, they were Packards, the car of choice among upscale buyers because it stood for fine engineering, luxury, and prestige. Not until 1933 did Pinehurst Garage receive its Chevrolet franchise.
The dealership kept the name of The Pinehurst Garage until August 2, 1971, when Bill Clark began his family’s leadership of the business by buying it from the Diamondhead Corporation, which had assumed ownership of it and other resort assets in Pinehurst earlier that year.
“My grandfather, who had graduated from the Naval Academy in 1934, had gone to work for General Motors and later became the regional sales manager for Chevrolet for all dealerships east of the Mississippi. When he learned that The Pinehurst Garage was up for sale, he helped my dad who was 30 at the time to purchase it,” Troy Clark said. And the rest is history.
Clark added: “My dad took over in 1971. He’s been retired since 2008. I joined in 1996 at age 26, and I officially became the dealer-operator in 2004.”
The dealership has certainly stood the test of time. Clark reflected on the challenges that his father faced such as the gas crunch in the ‘70s and tough economic times in the ‘80s. Then after he took over, Clark himself had to deal with the effects of 9/11 and the automobile industry bankruptcies in 2008. “Even now the industry is dealing with a microchip shortage,” he said.
To the original structure, the Clark family added two body repair shops that were built in 1976 and 1985. Later the Chevrolet brick-and-glass showroom was added in 1988.
The classic service that Clark Chevrolet Cadillac has consistently provided for decades is matched by the classic appearance of its dealership. The home of the dealership is one of the most beautiful structures in the village.
Designed by an architectural firm in Chicago, the original building has always been identified by the stylish white four-brick-thick pillars in front. The Tufts, the founding family of Pinehurst and the initial owners of the dealership, wanted the building to resemble a classy hotel.
Now housing Clark’s service department, the building’s interior is accentuated by the original heart pine that dates to its original construction. An insight into the early days of Pinehurst is that on the second floor had been nine rooms that housed chauffeurs for residents of the Carolina Hotel.
The dealership has thrived under the direction of the Clark family. Also joining in the business is Troy’s brother Billy, the finance manager.
In the 50 years that the Clarks have owned the dealership, car styles have continued to change, much like what was reflected in the lifespan of the Impala. To meet the car needs of today, Chevrolet has a full range of models, each one with its own personality, and all touting innovative technology, exceptional efficiency, and impressive safety features. Similarly, with the Cadillac, Clark has a top-selling and the most recognizable luxury car in America, much like the Packard was when the Tufts opened the dealership.
As leaders in the car industry for introducing innovation, improving efficiency, and enhancing safety features, both Chevrolet and Cadillac have been recognized for their significant improvements in product quality. As both continue to improve their current models, they are also planning for future market changes as the popularity of electric vehicles grows.
Also posturing for the future, Clark already offers a purchase process that is completely online. Imagine how shocking that would be to the initial staff of The Pinehurst Garage.
“Even as a small dealership, we usually have sufficient cars available to meet a customer’s demands. Now cars are being sold even before they land on the lot,” Clark said.
For the future, he anticipates a big evolution in electric vehicles, particularly in the next five years when Cadillac hopes to be all-electric.
“We’ve made the investments to keep up with the times and what customers expect,” Clark added.
What else does the future hold for his dealership? “In the long run, many family dealerships have been gobbled up by large dealer groups. We have no interest in that,” he said.
Models come; models go. Meanwhile, Clark continues to excel as a small-town family-owned dealership and fills the niche needed by Sandhills car buyers that large dealer groups cannot. Actually some things never change. pinehurstcadillac.com