locally owned since 1854

After 70 years, Grove Motors to close doors

By Dan Miller danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 5/17/17

The old black and white photo is undated, but Dave Grove knows when it was taken by the new car in front.

“It was 1969. That’s a 1969 Camaro,” said Grove, of the photo showing the old …

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After 70 years, Grove Motors to close doors

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The old black and white photo is undated, but Dave Grove knows when it was taken by the new car in front.

“It was 1969. That’s a 1969 Camaro,” said Grove, of the photo showing the old Chevrolet dealership on East Main Street in Middletown, which became Grove Motors in 1978.

Grove’s grandfather, H.B. Grove Sr.; his uncle, Richard K. Grove; and dad H.B. Grove Jr. built the building and opened a Chevy dealership there in 1947.

Only dad is still alive. David Grove was born in 1954.

“I was raised in this building,” Grove said. Now, he’s the one bringing this long era to an end.

Grove Motors is closing. The last day of business is Thursday, May 18. Hand-written signs announcing the closing have been up in the store windows for a few weeks, plus a folding sign along the street.

The business is closing because Grove has decided to retire. Six other people working at Grove Motors will have to find other jobs. One has been with Grove for 35 years, and his son works at Grove as well.

No one else is able to carry on the business, Grove said. He is trying to sell as much of the auto parts inventory as possible between now and May 18.

A public sale/auction will be held sometime in the summer for the remaining inventory, plus equipment. Then this building that has been in the Grove family since Harry Truman was president will be for sale.

The Grove car wash across East Main will stay open, and Grove will still own and lease some other lots across the street.

“I’m going to be 63 in the fall and I wanted to spend more time with my family and my wife,” Grove told the Press & Journal during an interview at the business on Wednesday, May 10. “A lot of people tell you that you know when it’s time to retire, and it’s time to retire.”

The three Grove founders operated their own Chevrolet dealership from 1947 until 1969, when the trio sold out to Alex Chevrolet, which later became Hoffman Chevrolet.

After Dave Grove got out of college in 1975 and the leases expired in 1978, he and his dad took the business back as Grove Motors, selling used cars.

In the beginning it was Grove, his dad, and one mechanic.

The business prospered, and Grove expanded to start selling auto parts through Big A in 1986, later transitioning into Carquest, the brand Grove still carries.

At its peak Grove had about a dozen employees, including three technicians, two body men and the people in the front selling auto parts.

But as the years went by the auto parts business became much more competitive, with national retailers like Advance and AutoZone penetrating small town America.

AutoZone targeted Middletown, and in late 2015 the company opened a bright new orange and white franchise almost next door on East Main Street.

“We had very good wholesale accounts and very good walk-in trade, but AutoZone coming in across the street basically makes a difference,” Grove said. Carquest itself is now part of Advance, according to the Carquest website.

AutoZone was a factor, but not the only one in Grove deciding to hang it up.

“A lot of it is I just want to look back and enjoy life a little bit. It’s been a seven-day-a-week situation with me doing the car wash, doing everything that I do. The more properties you have, the more you have to do.”

Longtime customers have been leaving messages on the answering machine, and coming in.

Lyn Teter has been doing business with Grove for about 20 years.

Besides patronizing the auto parts store and garage, Teter and her husband, Larry, rent the building Grove owns across the street for their own business, Tender Loving Care Kennels Pet Supply.

“I’m sad of course,” said Lyn, adding that she and Larry are also soon closing the business they’ve had for 21 years.

“We kind of understand each other — why we have to do what we have to do,” Lyn said of Grove.

“It’s difficult because this is all I’ve ever known. It’s something I have to do,” Grove said.

He’s staying local — Grove lives in Hummelstown — and between the car wash, maintaining the properties and taking care of dad on Emaus Street, Grove doesn’t see a lot of down time.

“I’m gonna have plenty to keep me out of mischief.”

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