Staff Chevrolet changes hands

Published 4:49 am Wednesday, March 2, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
Almost 72 years ago Gerlach Motor Company opened its doors in Atmore and in 1962 its name changed to Staff Chevrolet.
Now it is about to go through another major change.
"Daddy opened up here March 15, 1933," Bill Staff, part owner of the dealership and son to founder Eddie Staff Sr., said.
When it opened it was in an old livery stable north of the Post Office.
"It was a livery stable and he had to clean the straw and the horse manure out of it to get started," Bill said. "He built this building here in 1938 and it's been here ever since then."
The company was called Gerlach Motor Company back then because although it was managed by Eddie Staff, financial backing came from his uncle and his father Theodore "Thead" Staff.
"His uncle Joe Gerlach and his daddy sent him up to manage it," Bill said. "It was Gerlach motor company at that time. It changed to Staff in 1962, but it's been the same management all that time."
Chuck Stevens Automotive will begin managing the company in March, but the Staff family will continue to play a large roll in the company.
"Ed Staff III will stay in parts, I'm in service and Jim Staff will stay in sales," Bill said. "We're all going to stay here."
Bill Staff and his brothers grew up around the dealership.
"I've worked here since I got out of school in 1959; all my life, but steady since '59," Bill said. "We were all involved in it."
Both Bill and his brother Jim are excited about the changes to the company.
On Feb. 24 General Motors approved the sale of the controlling interest of Staff Chevrolet to Chuck Stevens Automotive.
"Chuck and I will own the dealership," Chad Bartz with Chuck Stevens Automotive said. "We think it will be happening at the end of March. We have approval from GM and we have an agreement with the Staff family."
The Staff family will still own part of the dealership, but the controlling shares will belong to Chuck Stevens.
"It is Chuck Stevens request that every employee that is currently working at Staff is offered a job," Bartz said "We are actively recruiting people who have previously worked there to come back to Atmore."
Jim Staff, one of Staff Chevy's current owners, is excited about the changes.
"The best part is going to be more folks in Atmore," Jim said. "There's going to be a lot of folks moving to Atmore for this deal."
Not only will the staff of the Chevy dealership increase, so will the actual size of the dealership.
"He's going to stock a whole lot of cars and it will be good for Atmore; good all around," Jim said.
Bartz said the staff would increase as much as 30 percent immediately.
They are also in the process of expanding the size of the dealership and doing updates to the building.
"Today Jim Staff has about 15 cars there," Bartz said. "We are looking to have 90 new and 60 used cars. We're buying property where the parts warehouse is so we can expand. We hope to sell 75 to 100 cars per month."
Chuck Stevens Automotive is already one of the largest companies in Bay Minette and hopes to bring its success to Atmore.
"We are very excited to be coming to Atmore," Bartz said. "In Bay Minette we are the No. 2 tax payer next to Wal-Mart and we are very much about supporting the local groups and charities."
According to Bartz, Chuck Stevens Automotive has donated money to the 711th Signal Battalion in Bay Minette, cerebral palsy, and youth sports leagues among other things.
"We'll only succeed there if the community supports us but we will also support the community," Bartz said. "We're all about being a part of the community and supporting the community. Some of the management team will definitely live in Atmore."
According to Bartz most people in the Atmore area who want to own General Motors vehicles travel to Pensacola, Brewton, Mobile or Bay Minette rather than spending their dollars at home.
"Our idea is to service the automotive needs of the Atmore community," Bartz said. "We're going to be selling new and used cars and providing superior mechanical assistance to the people of the Atmore area."
Chuck Stevens Chevy is planning to have their grand opening in April over 72 years after Gerlach Motors opened.

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