Clare County Review & Marion Press

After 50 years, Benchley Buick GMC will have new owners

By Pat Maurer

Except for his years in the service, Rev Benchley has been living in the Clare area his whole life. For the last 50 years he has also been the co-owner and then sole owner of Benchley Brothers Buick and GMC located these days at 821 East Fifth Street, just east of downtown Clare.
The dealership, first located across from Witbeck’s on McEwan Street where Walgreens is now located, was established in the fall of 1972 by Rev and Bernie Benchley as Benchley Brothers Buick, Olds and GMC.
They moved the dealership to the current location at 821 East Fifth Street in Clare (across from the Clare South Industrial Park) in the fall of 1979.
Rev took over sole ownership when Bernie retired in the early 1980s. Olds was discontinued around 1996, but the dealership, specializing in Buick and GMC products, is still going strong, thanks to a sterling reputation of excellent service.
Since that time the business has undergone expansion, a complete façade renovation in 2013 and the addition of a ‘bank’ of solar panels about ten years ago, which collect electricity and reduce the business expenses.
On September 7, Benchley’s celebrated 50 years in business.
Rev, now 83, has received several awards for reaching this milestone. “It’s been a long time,” Rev said, “but it seems like a short time.”
He has slowed down, but just a little. His days now include meeting friends at 7 am (they drink coffee – he doesn’t), back to the dealership at 8 am; a tour of the dealership to greet and help employees with problems. “Then I just watch and listen. I do a lot of watching.” He said he doesn’t stay there all day long anymore.

He also loves to walk, in fact still walks to work – a little over two miles each way – most days. He and wife Margo have a farm southeast of Clare.
Now there will be even more changes at the long-term business when the new owners take over, including an extensive renovation inside and out.
Rev has announced that he has sold the dealership. His plans to sell have been in the works for about a year now he said. When son Jim, who is the General Manager told him he didn’t want to buy it, Rev put it up for sale.
Several people were interested, but just recently Tom Bishop of Cheboygan became the one who will be the new owner of the dealership. Rev said Tom, with his son David, has two other dealerships; one in Cheboygan and one in Roger’s City. He was originally a potato farmer in the thumb area.
Rev said, after the sale is finalized in the next couple of weeks, Bishop will take over. “I will be here to help in the transition,” Rev said.
He added, “This is a big change. I haven’t thought about it much yet. I enjoy what I’m doing and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, other than going to the dealership every day.”
He continued, “I am going to miss the dealership. I enjoy the people in the community, our faithful customers and especially our great staff here at Benchley’s. Without them I wouldn’t still be here.”
Many of Benchley’s 25 employees have been around for years, Rev said. Their time working at the dealership ranges from three to nearly 40 years. In the sales department, son Jim Benchley has been there since 1974; Ron Frisbee for more than 35 years; and Scott Anderson since 1989. Bob Strong has been Service Manager for more than 40 years and his wife Kathy Strong is Benchley’s Service Advisor; and after long-time Body Manager Jim Pety retired, Willis McKenzie took over that position, which he has now held for six years. Eric Cotton has been there for 29 years.
Rev has enjoyed an interesting life.
A 1956 graduate of Clare High School and a member of the track team for two of his high school years, Rev ran in the one-mile race. “I never could beat Joe Crawford though,” he said. His lifelong friend, Bill Siel, who wrote for the Clare Sentinel in years past, said Joe held the school record in that run for 30 years. Bill, a school chum, also passed along some tidbits about their escapades in school during the interview, which Rev wasn’t enthusiastic about including in his story…and added, “He had good looking sisters.”
Rev has always kept busy.
As a youngster he held several jobs including delivering papers, working at Davie’s Department Store, (located where the Venue is), at Jackson’s Meat Market, at Witbeck’s Grocery, and even selling popcorn at the Ideal Theatre. “It seems like I worked at half of the businesses in town and knew everybody,” he said. “Not so much anymore though.”
He served in the Air Force for four years and after he came home from the service, worked at Dow Corning in Hemlock for eleven years, before he and brother Bernie started Benchley Brothers. Establishing the business led to a 50-year career for Rev.
In all those years, service has always been Benchley Brothers’ number one priority. “We were founded on, and still rely on excellent customer service,” son Jim said.
Jim added, “50 years is definitely a milestone and the automotive business has surely been a test of time with all of the things happening in the world today. Through it all, we have stood the test of time and continued to put our customers first. The repeat business we have enjoyed has shown the true outcome of that philosophy.” He continued, “I plan to continue with the new ownership, working in sales and to continue to always put our customers first.”
Rev’s retirement plans once the sale is complete include more golf (he belongs to two leagues, Tuesday and Thursday, and also golfs each Sunday with wife Margo). In fact, his buddy Bill reported that last year he shot an Albatross (three strokes under par). Rev said he has had three holes in one.
Golf won’t be his only pastime. He added lawn care and said he will be spending more time with his two Golden Doodles and collecting rocks from his fields. “I pile them up and give them away. I enjoy it, it’s a fun thing to do,” he said.
He said that helping his neighbors more will also be high on his list of retirement activities.

3 Replies to “After 50 years, Benchley Buick GMC will have new owners

  1. It’s not just lip service when talking about Benchley’s being service oriented! They are true to their customers and run an absolute awesome dealership there!!!

  2. Congratulations. Benchley’s have always been great to deal with. Their service department never disappoints, whether it’s an oil change or major repair. Appointments are on time, they explain their findings and give you the option to have it done or not. Thank you for your honesty, reasonable prices and friendly staff. Best wishes to the new owners. A Rosebush customer

    1. I began my continued association with Benchley’s in the early 80’s. You will find no one more skilled, thoughtful and friendly than those who work there. Congratulations Rev!

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