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Ohio’s Oldest Ford Dealership Serves for Over 100 Years and Ready for the Next Century

Published October 25, 2022

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In 1913, grocer George Butler Chapman’s love for automobiles became more than an interest. Chapman’s passion turned into a four-generation run auto dealership with the opening of one the first Ford retail outlets in the state of Ohio. Chapman opened his first Ford store in Plain City, Ohio; the building remains as a functioning antique auction house today.

He found that his experience as owner of the Plain City Grocer was invaluable to his success. Great grandson Joe Chapman, now serving as head of Chapman Ford, shared that George Chapman “was wise to customer service and committed to delivering a better value to people to earn and keep their business.”

After seeing the opportunity and transformative period in personal transportation, George Chapman began educating and moving his community from "horse-powered" carriages to motor vehicles, this transition started with the Ford Model T. As an early advocate for new technology, combined with his commitment to the Ford brand, George built a new and more modern facility in Plain City near what is today the Plain City Library. In only five brief years, Chapman Ford experienced unprecedented growth.

George Chapman remained at the helm of Chapman Ford until 1935. At the age of 63; he decided to partner with his son Robert “Bob” Chapman Sr. and allow his charismatic son to lead Chapman Ford into the next generation of automobile sales and service.

That same year, Bob built a third facility and relocated the business near downtown Plain City in order to accommodate a growing need for vehicle service. Like his father, Bob was an innovator and entered many business ventures throughout his career including but not limited to a Chrysler dealership, three franchised restaurants and an RV sales and service center. Bob was most known for his passion for aviation, which led to the establishment of the Union County Airport in Marysville, Ohio.

1978 was a pivotal year for the Chapman organization. Bob combined his passion for Ford and aviation by constructing a new facility just a stone's throw away from the airport in Marysville. The same year, Bob passed along control to the third generation handing his son Bob "Bobby" Chapman Jr. the reins of the dealership. Chapman Ford was blessed to be guided by Bobby's steady hand throughout the automotive industry changes of the 1970s; his devotion to the business sustained the store through these difficult years to this day. Bobby is still a huge contributor to the current success of Chapman Ford; his knowledge of past circumstances has remained invaluable for guiding the dealership through any challenges that may arise. 

The dealership's location hasn't changed since 1978, but the current facility is not recognizable compared to the past. Joseph “Joe” Chapman, who started working in the dealership's collision center in 1990 at the age of 14, took over as Chapman Ford dealer principal and CEO in 2008 at the age of 31, making him one of the youngest dealer principals in Ford’s history. As Joe was determined to bring Chapman Ford into the 21st century, Chapman Ford underwent an extensive and thorough modernization in 2015 with a new facility that provides customers with a state-of-the-art service and sales experience.

The dealership’s accolades are long and varied. Among them, Chapman Ford was recognized publicly as the 19th oldest dealership in the country and has been honored by Ford in reaching their 25th, 50th, 75th, and 100th anniversaries along with the automaker’s prestigious President’s Award.

Joe applies the same philosophy to running the dealership as his predecessors: “provide a great product at a fair price and support your customers with an excellent, personal service experience.” Since its founding 100 years ago, Chapman Ford remains “customer-focused, hands-on and humble” in serving their customers, Joe explained. “We want to big enough to deliver, but small enough to care.”

Delivering to the community is something Joe also attributes to the dealership’s longevity. “Being community-oriented and philanthropic is absolutely at the core of my business,” said Joe.

“The joy of giving has always been in our hearts.” The dealership has given back to their local community with donations to first responder programs, local startups and city projects including a hospital addition.

Throughout the dealership’s four generations, the Chapman family has celebrated Ford’s innovation and evolution and has not have adjusted their business to follow suit and best serve their customers. “Now that we are in our second century of operations, we want to take time to celebrate how far we have come and recommit to our next 100 years,” Joe added. “We love Ford Motor Company and are honored to be a dealer. In the constantly changing auto business, we have the desire and are committed to putting in the resources needed to remain Ohio’s oldest dealership for years to come.”

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