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Purchase of Glen Campbell ends era of dealership that began in '46

For West Herr Automotive Group, acquiring Glen Campbell Chevrolet in Amherst is an opportunity to boost its Chevy market share.

For the Campbell family, the sale is the end of an era that began when the dealership debuted just after World War II.

West Herr now has three area Chevy dealerships; the other two are in Hamburg and Orchard Park. It was already one of the largest dealer groups in the country.

The Glen Campbell dealership's property at 8040 Transit Road, south of Maple Road, was sold for $3.2 million, according to county records.

Changes are coming. Melissa Attea was named general manager. West Herr plans to renovate the 41,000-square-foot property next year. And the dealer group expects the location's employment to grow from the current 44 to 65 as sales volumes increase.

"Our entire team is excited about the potential that this store has based on the popularity of the Chevrolet brand in Western New York and because of the outstanding location," said Scott Bieler, West Herr's president, in a statement.

West Herr now has 18 locations representing a total of 20 brands.

"They're doing it through good business practices and they're pretty successful," said Paul Stasiak, president of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.

As the Amherst location converted to the West Herr name, Kevin Campbell, the dealership's president, reflected on the sale.

"It was really just a decision based on what we thought was best for our families," he said. West Herr had approached the Campbells with a "strong offer" to purchase the business, which got them thinking about selling it, he said.

Glen C. Campbell founded the dealership in 1946. He was succeeded by his son, James E. Campbell, and more recently, the dealership was run by the founder's grandsons, James G. Campbell, Jay B. Campbell and Kevin Campbell. By the time of the sale, Jay was vice president and equal partners with Kevin in the business; James had retired.

The business went through some changes over the years. It moved to the Transit Road site in 1980. In the late 1990s, it acquired an Oldsmobile franchise and sold Olds alongside Chevy until General Motors eliminated the brand. The Campbells also acquired a Suzuki franchise in 2007 that they operated across the street for a few years.

On New Year's Eve 2001, the torch relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah stopped at the Glen Campbell Chevrolet as it passed through Western New York.

The dealership also had longtime employees like mechanic John Elberson of Cheektowaga, who started in 1951. He retired in 1988 and remained on the payroll after that.

Elberson recalled needing a job when he walked into the dealership's former home on Main Street, which was close to his house, seeking employment. He was asked when he could start. "How about right now?" he replied.

Elberson said he was sorry to see the Campbells leave the business. "I thought they were great people to work for."

Kevin Campbell, who joined the family dealership full time in 1978, said he will most miss the people: the employees and customers he dealt with on a regular basis. "There's a great energy in the industry that I think is hard to find in other places."