Ken Wise dealerships sold

David Wright assumes ownership April 3

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Pictured is a portion of the Ken Wise Buick-GMC-Honda property at 1000 N. 3rd St. That dealership, as well as the Ken Wise Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge and Wise Auto Credit businesses were recently sold.

Saying “the time was right” Ken Wise Buick-GMC-Honda President John Wise told the Times-Republican Thursday the business had been sold to David Wright of Cedar Rapids.

The deal includes Ken Wise Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge and Wise Auto Credit.

The sale is effective April 3, Wise said.

Wright owns two dealerships in Cedar Rapids.

“We sold the business to a friend,” Wise said of Wright. “We have known David for approximately 20 years. At age 22, he got his start in the business with us, and worked seven years. We found a guy we think will be great for everybody.”

With the sale comes a name change.

Consequently, the Wise name will not be associated with a Marshalltown auto dealership for the first time in approximately 64 years.

The late Ken Wise founded the business in 1953.

Fittingly, the business remained a local, family-owned and managed enterprise until the end.

In a previous interview with the T-R marking the company’s 60th anniversary, John Wise said his father got his start in the auto business in a most unusual way.

“When he was discharged from the service following World War II in Flint, Mich., no one was hiring, so dad offered to work for free washing cars at a factory-owned Buick dealership,” John Wise said. “They accepted his offer and when he left seven years later, he had risen to the position of general sales manager. But he and my mother were native Iowans and wanted to live closer to home.”

In 1953, Wise bought the Buick dealership at 110 E. Church St.

In 1962 he moved to 205 E. State St. Ten years later, Wise bought the local Oldsmobile dealership and became Ken Wise Buick-Oldsmobile. Then in 1977, after the old Forest Park Ballroom burned down, Wise cleared the property, built a new facility and moved the business to its current location, 1000 N. 3rd Avenue.

In 1980, John Wise — who got his start emptying ash trays — became vice president. In 1982, brother Tom Wise (currently vice president) became sales manager. Later, the business grew by adding Honda and GMC lines.

Later, Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge and Wise Auto Credit joined the ranks. Ken Wise died Sept. 30, 1998.

“For Tom and me, this (the business) is the only thing we have known,” John Wise said. “Tom was born in the business. I was born in Flint, we moved here when I was 4.”

John Wise said the relationship he and Tom have had with employees and customers “made the sale tough,” four words he repeated throughout interview.

“People that work for us are family,” he said. “When we told them, it was not easy. It is still not easy. Rhonda McCann our office manager, moved with us from our State Street location. And our customers mean everything to us … they will be taken care of … to my knowledge, all of the employees will be staying. So when a customers comes in for sales or service, they are going to see the same faces.”

John Wise said that Tuesday, the first day after the business changes hands, will be tough.

“Now I will have more time to spend with my grandchildren locally and in Kansas City … it was a difficult decision to sell, but we know it was the right one,” he said.


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