One of Vernal’s oldest family businesses was recently sold. Patrons, friends and community members gathered Thursday at Showalter Ford to reminisce about the 89 year-old business.
Owner Gary Showalter, who has worked there for the past 46 years, said the key to maintaining a good customer base in a small community is to treat people with respect.
“When you’re forthright and honest, people seem to appreciate it,” he said. “We are proud to have been here this long and to have done business with all of our loyal customers. We will miss you.”
It was an emotional day for Showalter, a former mayor of Vernal, who was recognized in 2010 for operating 75-years as Utah’s oldest Ford dealership. His grandfather Clearance Showalter moved west from Iowa in the mid 1920’s and became a partner in a livery stable and blacksmith business in Vernal. He also owned a dance hall, a movie theater and a flock of sheep.
Four generations of Showalter men oversaw business operations in Vernal over the last 89 years. Clearance Showalter acquired the Ford franchise in Vernal in 1935. Gary’s father Don Showalter took charge of the business in 1939. Gary took over managing the business in the early 1970’s and his son Matt has held the general manager title for the last several years.
The business went through its share of ups and downs over the years. The original livery stable on South Vernal Avenue was destroyed by a fire in 1939. The business relocated to 100 East Main after the fire and the new building at 333 West Main was constructed in 1997.
Showalter said the business currently has 27 employees. Some have been interviewed by the new owner but their futures are uncertain at the present time. The new owner is Jon M. Weese, owner of Heritage Auto Group. The company owns Chrysler, Ford, Jeep and Ram dealerships in northern Utah and southern Idaho.