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Oldest Buick Dealership In Nation To Close

Source: Quincy Herald-Whig
By Edward Husar
Date: June 8, 2006

Geise Buick Pontiac at 930 Maine the oldest Buick dealership in the nation is selling its assets to Poage Auto Plaza and will be closing after a century of service.

The dealership has been a downtown Quincy institution since Henry Geise Sr. launched the business in 1906. His sons, Henry Geise Jr. and the late Robert Geise, along with grandson Henry Geise III, continued to keep the Buick dealership going after the elder Geise retired in 1953.

But the family's long run ends Friday when the new-car operation and service department close shop.

Starting Monday, Buicks and Pontiacs will be sold and serviced at Poage Auto Plaza, 4300 Broadway, which bought both franchises. The Geise family will sell off the rest of its used-car fleet, which will take 30 to 60 days, and then begin liquidating its property on both sides of Maine Street.

"By the end of the year, Geise Buick will be a thing of the past," said Henry Geise Jr.

Geise, 83, said the time seemed right to bring an end to the family-owned business where he first started working for his father in 1939.

"It's still a profitable business, but it's much more competitive than it used to be," he said. "At my age, I just felt I'd be better off to try to sit back and relax and take it easy."

Geise was a co-owner of the dealership along with his brother, who died in January at age 79, and his son, who has been serving as the dealership's general manager.

Henry Geise III will join the new car department at Poage Auto Plaza, according to Aaron Poage, who co-owns the Quincy dealership that also sells Cadillacs and GMC models along with pre-owned cars.

Poage said he plans to hire some of the 20 employees who now work at Geise Buick Pontiac. "We're working to try to accommodate as many people as we can," he said.

The Poage family already has some experience with Buicks and Pontiacs. Those models are featured at the family's Poage Auto Center store in Hannibal, Mo., which is managed by Aaron's brother, Jason. Their father, Dean Poage, manages the Poage Auto Mall in Decatur.

Poage commended the Geises for keeping their automotive business going for 100 years in Quincy. "It's a huge accomplishment what they've done," he said.

Henry Geise Jr. said he's sorry to see the family business come to an end, but he says change is inevitable in the auto industry.

"There's change in everything," he said. "Years ago they used to call someone a mechanic if they had a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Today, everything is computerized. You can't work on a modern car without a computer."

Geise Buick was launched at a time when automobiles were far simpler and the number of makes and models was a fraction of what's available today.

Henry Geise Sr., who for years earned a living as a commercial fisherman and hunter, was working as a gunsmith in 1906 and also sold bicycles and motorcycles on the side. That's when one of his bicycle suppliers asked if Geise would be interested in selling cars.

Geise and the man talked with several other people about the idea. "They ended up taking orders for five automobiles that day," Henry Geise Jr. said. "That's the way it all started."

Geise said his father initially operated the Buick dealership at 719 Maine from 1906 to 1929. Then the business moved to 10th and Broadway until the end of World War II, at which time it relocated to 310 Maine. The business moved to its current location in 1960.

Henry Geise Jr. started working for his father during his senior year of high school. After serving in the military for 3 1/2 years during World War II, Geise came back to the dealership and rejoined his father.

Back then, business was booming, and the Geises were selling about 500 cars a year.

"We sold a lot more cars than we're selling today because Buick was a very popular automobile back in the 1950s," Geise said.

He said the influx of imported automobiles eventually cut into the market for Buicks and other long-time American-made cars. Today, he said, about 55 percent of the dealership's sales are pickup trucks.

One thing that hasn't changed for the Geise family is the loyalty of many longtime customers.

"We've got people who have been buying cars from us for 50 years," Geise said.