Bailey Chevrolet Celebrates 75 Years in Willow Springs
Tue, 09/28/2021 - 4:31pm admin
Amanda Mendez, Publisher
Robert and Ruby Bailey made the trip to St Louis in August 1946 to sign on the dotted line with General Motors to become an official franchise dealer in Willow Springs. Flash forward 75 years: the same family is still running that same new car dealership.
“You can cross the whole US and you won’t find but a handful of 75-year-old new car dealerships. The remarkable past is a tribute to the Bailey family and their spirit to keep Willow Springs growing!” said third generation owner, John Bailey.
Robert and Ruby were there for exactly 20 years.
“After WWII the country fell in love with the automobile. The Bailey brand of Pontiac was a great car for the times. Beautiful and proud, that Pontiac emblem led many Willow Springs residents on short trips to ball games in the SCA sporting events. Those same Pontiacs were loaded up for the occasional vacation trip on the open road. During those 20 years, Robert and Ruby raised 2 girls and 1 boy. Wendell became the dealer in 1966. Wendell and Jane put their heart and soul into the business,” John Baily said.
In 1946, it wasn’t so easy for new dealers to get their hands on new automobiles to sell, Robert and Ruby started off with only one 1946 Pontiac to sell, and they didn’t even get to sell it locally.
“An aggressive factory sales rep bought it from us,” John remembered with a wry smile.
The Baileys received one new 1947 Pontiac to sell, and in 1948, “We got two whole cars to sell,” John joked.
The family began to acquire more franchises as time went on, eventually selling Ramblers, AMCs, Jeeps, Renaults, and of course, Chevrolets.
In 1976, under Wendell and Jane Bailey, the dealership bought the green GMC sign from the Dodge dealer in town, Dick Fisher.
In 1900, Wendell ran for governor after serving in the United States Congress and two terms as Missouri State Treasurer. Of Wendell and Jane’s children, Michael, John, and Jill, John became the dealer in 1992. John and Valerie Bailey have helmed the business ever since.
Bailey Chevrolet moved to its current location at 720 E. Main St. in 1997. Their previous location was the former Vintage Floral location on the west end of East Main Street. In 1946, the dealership was close to the 4-way stop at Harris and Main.
“Some say the question is: why would you keep doing it for 75 years?” John said, “We have had a fire, a tornado, had a flood, been washed out, and robbed. What other catastrophe could there be? We just want to see what’s going to happen next!”
During this year’s Bear City Festival, the Baileys will host a celebration of their 75 years in Willow Springs.
There will be $75 door prizes, 75 catfish, 75 T-shirt giveaways, 75 current and former Bailey Chevrolet employees, and “75 future years starting today!” concluded John Bailey.
An old-fashioned meal will be served at the dealership at 4:00 p.m. on October 2.