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Wantz Chevrolet Ė 52 years of customer service

Danielle Ryan

"Wantz Chevrolet is determined to be Carroll Countyís premiere community Chevrolet dealership. We will do so by providing our neighbors with exceptional car buying and service experiences, featuring effective customer service, reliable workmanship, superior goods and fair, affordable deals delivered with ease. We will ensure that all customers are treated in a friendly, efficient manner, remembering that exceeding their expectations is our number one goal." The mission statement of a 52 years and counting business that started most humbly as a Chevrolet dealership remains to be the principle goal of the Wantz Chevrolet dealership in Taneytown.

Mr. Leonard Wantz began his journey into the business over 52 years ago, as he began working part time servicing cars for a gentleman named Mr. Merle Ohler, who was the first Chevrolet dealer in Taneytown. In his young teens, Mr. Wantz was offered an opportunity to work at the local car dealer. After starting as a part time employee, Mr. Ohler soon took a liking to Mr. Wantz, and part time work soon turned into full time work.

As time went on, Mr. Ohler began mentioning his need to give up the business due to his declining health and had inquired about Mr. Wantzís interest in the business. Around the time of the inquiry, Mr. Wantz was drafted into the Army, and his work at the dealership, and interest in the business, was placed on hold. The business, however, was still promised to Mr. Wantz, even after choosing to enlist in the National Guard.

Mr. Ohlerís health had declined significantly in the time Mr. Wantz was away. Out of necessity he had sold the business to a gentleman named Mr. Lowry. Mr. Wantz married his sweetheart after returning, and then went on to work for Mr. Lowry for about a year. During this year, he continued servicing cars, but on his own began selling cars and trucks and kept the business open on Thursday and Friday evenings as well as Saturdays.

As he recalls, one day out of the blue, the Chevrolet zone manager came into the dealership and informed him that he could become the Chevrolet dealer since the present owner was no longer interested. Newly married, the thought of taking over the Chevrolet dealership without the funds to purchase the business was scary and daunting. He sought the advice and council of his wife and father and they both encouraged him to proceed.

Mr. Wantz remembers that Mr. Ohler was residing in Florida at the time. Mr. Wantz and his father decided to drive down to visit Mr. Ohler in order to discuss the business. After speaking to Mr. Ohler about concerns with finances, Mr. Ohler informed them that financing would not be a problem. He advised them to return to Taneytown and begin to establish the dealership. On March 5, 1964, at the age of 23, Mr. Wantz became the dealer principle and Wantz Chevrolet was formed.

The business was originally located on the west side of Taneytown, two miles west of the present location. The business was small to start, only housing five service bays. Since new vehicles were at a premium at the time, there were only six models of cars and trucks available. Wantz Chevrolet also sold American gas from pumps located In front of the showroom.

In 1970, the Wantz family decided to add to the service department. Later, in the 1980ís the family purchased what was once known as the Raft Restaurant and converted it to a showroom and offices. A little later, they bought the AMOCO station on York Street because they needed a facility to clean their vehicles. Finally on July 4, 2000, after 10 years of planning, Wantz Chevrolet moved to their current location at 1 Chevro Drive. The facility was most recently renovated in 2015, in order to comply with the latest GM facility image program, and now encompasses 30,000 square feet.

Business at Wantz Chevrolet has certainly changed since itís initial opening in 1964. As Mr. Wantz likes to say "In the early days, business was done on a handshake and overall the business of selling cars was easier." At that time, vehicles were mechanical, there were no worries about computer failure within the cars, as computers really didnít make an appearance until later in the 80ís. In our modern age, vehicles are computerized. Today, automobile technicians must have an immense understanding of the programming, installation and inner working of the computers found inside the vehicles. A far cry from the 1960ís when turn signals, heaters and defrosters were optional, todayís technicians spend a great deal of time working with computerized programs that control these and many other features.

Born and raised in Taneytown, Mr. Wantz noted the changes in the town since the start of Wantz Chevrolet. When he began, Taneytown was a rural community, a heavily noted farming town. So the business relied on selling trucks to farmers in the area. As time has progressed however, the town has made the transition from a farming community to a bedroom community. Many of the small "mom and pop" businesses that used to line the streets of Taneytown have given way to larger businesses.

In the early days, for example, the Cambridge Rubber Company was the largest employer in Taneytown. Two large sewing factories also employed many locally. These businesses are long since closed, but thankfully, companies like Taney Stair, Flowserve Corporation and EVAPCO have located to Taneytown, filling a void of the lost manufacturing jobs that have left many rural towns like Taneytown just shadows of their former selves. Nothing represents the current prosperity of Taneytown like the fact that there used to be one traffic light, but now there are four throughout the town. The population has climbed from about 2,000 people to presently 12,000 people.

Mr. Wantz recalled the first car sold, which was a two-door station wagon called a Nomad. He sold it to his uncle Sam. He also shared memories about his favorite vehicles sold. The Chevy 2 was a car he was very knowledgeable about. He also noted a fair amount of truck and school bus business in the earlier days. In fact, he fondly remembers the first school bus he ever sold to a Mrs. Crabs for $3,400! He remembers the transport fee of a bus from Indiana to Taneytown was $50. This sale sparked his interest in selling busses. He was able to take this interest further in 1979 when Wantz became a Bluebird Bus Body Distributer. He remained a bus distributer until 1995.

While on the subject of favorite memories, Mr. Wantz discussed his favorite memories within the business. He humbly mentioned his family, and the people he has worked with and served, both in the business and throughout the community As an active member of the Lions Club, Mr. Wantz has the opportunity to volunteer his time serving and interacting with the community. His son, Scott Wantz, shares a similar fondness for serving the community as he and his son, Jeff, coach Little League baseball and basketball for the youth in the community. Wantz Chevrolet has also supported many local civic and non-profit organizations.

Scott Wantz mentioned his proudest moment was when his father received the Chevrolet dealer 50-year dealer award. It is not often that the award is given to a dealer that has been involved with the same business for 50 years. It is certainly noteworthy that the award was given to Mr. Wantz, who has remained the dealer for 50 years.

Wantz Chevrolet lives their mission statement every day. They do not operate like their larger, chain dealership counterparts. They function under the principle of trust built between customer and sales team member is a key to success. All customers wish to have a comfortable and pleasant car buying experience, and Wantz wishes to ensure that every customer walks away with this experience. Most importantly, Wantz Chevrolet is a family business. There are currently three generations working at the dealership, and on any given day, you can walk into the dealership and find a Wantz family member present. In fact, rarely is there a time when all three generations are not present.

The Wantz family has fashioned a family environment within their business. They know all of their employees by name and treat them like their own family members. In essence, the Wantz family and the employees that work for Wantz, are family. They also strive to know their customers and treat them like family every day. They have created a warm, friendly, honest and inviting atmosphere for their customers. They wish to maintain an environment in which customers are comfortable enough to return and bring their family and friends along. As a result, Scott proudly points out, Wantz has an 80% customer retention rate; that is something that is almost unheard of in the automobile industry. As Scott says, it all comes back to service, and the environment they create. The sales team makes it their objective to ensure that the customer is completely comfortable with the vehicle they are purchasing, and are more than willing to answer any questions.

Wantz Chevrolet is a business built on three generations, and has been able to have several families with three generations of returning customers. Not only do they have generations of returning customers, but they also have numerous staff members that have been at the dealership for 10, 20, even 30+ years. Not many dealerships can say that.

Throughout all the ups and down, Wantz Chevrolet has succeeded in surviving and conquering all the hardships for 52 years, while still maintaining a family-oriented atmosphere. What started as a small family dealership owned by a young man, his wife and only five employees has grown to its present day business: a state of the art facility, full service dealership, with 39 employees. Wantz Chevrolet is not simply just a dealership; itís them, itís who they are. To the Wantz family, this business is not just a job, itís their life. "For an honest, down-to-earth car buying experience, donít take a chance, buy from Wantz."