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The Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Detroit, Michigan

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The Ver Hoven Auto Dealership StoryDetroit, MichiganFred Kuplicki, Historian & Genealogist, Heritage ResearchIntroductionI had the opportunity to interview Claude Anthony (Tony) Greiner and his son Claude, respectively theSon and Grandson of Bud Greiner, Grandson and Great Grandson of Bernard J Ver Hoven. Tony andClaude still own the Ver Hoven buildings that now operate as Metro Tire and Automotive Repair Servicealong with Claude’s DISH network franchise operations.A little bit of history prior to the Ver Hoven Story .Looking at the following 1890 map of the Detroit area you will find that people living west of the CityAirport / (Conner Creek) Conner-Outer Drive-Cadillac Blvd. were residents of what was then known asHamtramck Township. Likewise, residents east of (Conner Creek) divide were residents of Grosse PointeTownship. The eastern limit of Detroit at the time was Mt Elliot and the north was Harper Avenue.Hamtramck Township’s borders were Baseline (8 Mile Rd) on the North, (Connor Creek) Connor –OuterDrive and over to Cadillac Blvd on the East, Detroit River on the South and Oakland Blvd on the West.Grosse Point Township was similar . starting at the North on Baseline Road going Eastward all the way toLake St Clair, following the Detroit River going Southward to the Cadillac Blvd – Conner – Outer Drivedivide adjacent to Hamtramck Township.Detroit continued to annex all of the property that are now within its current boundary between the early1900’s through the teen years and until 1926.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

Looking at a slice of the following 1883 Section map of the surrounding Mt Olivet Cemetery area you willnotice many familiar street names. The streets were named after their original property owners MaryTumey, Cornelius Nurenberg, and Sofia Dubay as well as many others not shown.McNichols Road, was then known in segments as Norris Ditch Road from Woodward to about Mt Elliot andthen as Beemer Road as it traversed to the east to Gratiot and then Seymour Road East of Gratiot.Greiner road adjacent to the north end of the new section of Mt Olivet cemetery was named after theGreiner family that owned many large plots of property in that area. The Greiner family sold several oftheir lots to what later became Assumption Grotto Church and Cemetery.1883 – Section Map of Detroit East SideBernard Joseph Ver HovenVer Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

The first tenant at the Southeast corner of McNichols and Van Dyke was the Otto Schemansky MonumentCompany during the early 1920’s. The monument display lot extended to McNichols however its buildinglocation at 13834 Van Dyke was probably 150 ft. south of the corner.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

1930 Section Map of Detroit East SideLinks for Additional Viewing of Local Maps1883 Wayne County Map with 6/Plate 008 Detroit City/Wayne County 1883 with Detroit/Michigan/1883 Hamtramck 02/Plate 015 Hamtramck Township North Detroit Maybury/Wayne County 1883 with Detroit/Michigan/1883 Grosse Point 01/Plate 014 Grosse Point Township Lake St Clair/Wayne County 1883 with Detroit/Michigan/Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

The Changing Corner of Van Dyke & McNichols 1920 - 1980Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

The Changing Corner of Van Dyke & McNichols 1920 - 1980Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

The Ver Hoven Auto Dealership StoryDetroit, MichiganFred Kuplicki, Historian & Genealogist, Copyright 2014 All Rights ReservedBeginning in 1913, Bernard J Ver Hoven originally operated a blacksmith, small forge and wagon repairshop on the west side of Van Dyke, one block south of the road that we now know as McNichols Road.Recognizing a few years later that the automobile was here to stay he transformed his smithy shop into asmall repair garage and added a gasoline filling station with sales of tires and oil. The humble beginning ofa new venture known as B J Ver Hoven’s Auto Garage.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

Between 1924 and 1925 Ver Hoven purchased the property he was occupying and built a larger buildingon Van Dyke corner of Tumey Street extending the building another 100 feet to the North and closer toMcNichols Road.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

The additional size of the building allowed Ver Hoven to acquire a Ford Dealership in 1925 selling andservicing the Ford automotive products.From what the family has been told and based upon data from the Detroit City Directory, sometimearound 1933 Henry Ford stopped by Ver Hoven’s Ford dealership in a limousine and tried to buy the Forddealership back from Ver Hoven to give to one of his family members. But Ver Hoven didn't want to sell,an argument ensued. Promptly, B J Ver Hoven went back to his office, got his Ford dealership contract,ripped it up and threw it through the open window of Henry Ford’s limousine.Afterwards he continued to forge ahead with his auto sales business at 13801-13831 Van Dyke as B J VerHoven’s Auto Sales and as Ver Hoven & Gietzen Auto Sales with a used car lot at 13820 Van Dyke.Several auto dealerships passed through his showroom on Van Dyke during this era the last being aDodge dealership. Apparently Maud, Bernard Ver Hoven’s wife didn't like some of the features on the lastcars they were selling and encouraged him to find another brand to sell.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

In 1935 and across town at 16350 Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, MI, Bernard Ver Hoven acquiredthe Waverly Auto Sales building and property which became the start of Ver Hoven’s Woodward ChevroletAuto Sales and Service along with a used car lot. This business location was in operation until sometimeduring the ‘50’s citing the 1957 Detroit City Directory listing Russ Dawson Ford as the property owner.Ver Hoven’s Woodward ChevroletVer Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

Ver Hoven’s Woodward Chevrolet business may have paved the way for them to acquire a Chevrolet AutoSales and Service dealership for their 13801-13831 Van Dyke location in 1937.The above photo of the original showroom on the West side of Van Dyke also shows the popular elephantadvertisement that became synonymous with Ver Hoven Chevrolet. The story about the elephant beganwhen a carnival / circus was driving their fleet of trucks along Van Dyke on their way north to a site inCenterline or Warren, MI. Unfortunately one of their trucks broke down and needed repair in the proximityof Ver Hoven’s dealership. The truck was brought into Ver Hoven’s to determine the extent of the damageand cost to repair. It so happened that the estimate was going to be expensive, more than the cash thecircus owner had in his pocket. And so the circus owner and B J Ver Hoven made a deal. The circus ownerwould leave his elephant with Ver Hoven as collateral if they would repair his truck . and. after a fewdays when the circus engagement was over the circus owner would return with the cash payment for therepair and redeem his elephant. It so happened that the elephant was named “Peanuts” and so theadvertising slogan associated with the elephant photos became “Ver Hoven Chevrolet We Deal forPeanuts”Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

About the same time that B J Ver Hoven acquired his Chevrolet dealership in 1937, the Rivard Brothersopened a Ford “Outlet” at 13852 Van Dyke, located diagonally across the street at the Southeast corner ofMcNichols and Van Dyke. The so called “Outlet” with Ford Sales, General Auto Service and a gasolinefilling station served primarily as a feeder location to draw customers to their main Rivard Brothers Fordoperations 2 miles North on Van Dyke in Base Line, MI (Centerline).Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

Concurrent with the building of the Rivard Brothers facility, the majority of older individual buildings onthe east side of Van Dyke, and adjacent to the Rivard business going South one block to Tumey Streetwere demolished and a new multi store front building was constructed.The new Van Dyke store fronts were occupied by Otto Schemansky & Sons Monument Sales at 13844,various owners of a clothes cleaners business were at 13834 (Schemansky’s previous address), severalowners of a beer garden and a café were located at 13830-13832. Ver Hoven’s Used OK Car Salesremained at 13820, next to the lot was a grocery at 13804 and a meat market at 13800.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

In June of 1946, (Claude) Bud Greiner a son in law who married B J Ver Hoven’s daughter Constantine,acquired the Ver Hoven Dealership.In the years that followed, Greiner began acquiring property across the street starting at the Southeastcorner of McNichols and Van Dyke purchasing the former Rivard Brothers Ford Outlet & Hi Speed GasStation which became Ver Hoven’s New Chevrolet Showroom, Service Center & Mobil Gas StationVer Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

By 1950, Bud Greiner continued to expand his auto dealership acquiring and demolishing the multi-unitstore front building to the South to construct a new Ver Hoven Chevrolet dealership along with adding thestate of the art equipment to service their customer’s vehicles. The building acquisitions formerly housedthe Otto Schemansky & Sons Monument Co, Graham’s Bar and other store front businesses.The current 37,000 square foot building was constructed in 1950 and contained the largest inventory ofChevrolet replacements parts in the area offering expedient service provided by highly trained mechanics.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

A large used car lot was also located on Van Dyke two blocks south of their showroom and service center.By the ‘70’s a pharmacy and bar were acquired on the Southwest corner of Van Dyke / McNichols anddemolished to make way for a secondary used car lot showcasing newer used vehicles as the demise ofthe neighborhood began taking its toll on the small businesses in the neighborhood. By that time B J VerHoven and succeeded later by Bud Greiner owned all the block long properties on both sides of Van Dykefrom McNichols to Tumey Street anticipating future growth of the business.Ver Hoven Chevrolet became the Detroit Headquarters and Major Sponsor of the local Soap Box Derby.Many of the derby cars were being built by the participants on their showroom floor.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

Bernard Joseph Ver Hoven, the grandson of Dutch immigrants who migrated to America during the 1850’swas a Veteran of the U S Army, having served with the Michigan National Guard in his late teen years andearly 20’s. He became a blacksmith, carriage maker, carriage repairman, later an automotive mechanicand business entrepreneur. He was married to Maud DesGrandchamps in 1916, the father of a son andtwo daughters. He originally resided around the corner from his business at 8037 Nurenburg Street andlater to Grosse Point Park. He was pre-deceased by his first wife Maud in 1968. Two of his children alsopassed away, Clymer in 1944 and oldest daughter Quintilla in 1940. Constantine, the youngest daughtermarried Claude “Bud” Greiner.A widower late in life Bernard married the widow Elin Berntzen Brandt. Bernard Joseph Ver Hoven, born inWarren Township, Michigan in 1889 passed away in 1975 and his second wife Elin in 1987.Claude “Bud” Greiner, B J Ver Hoven’s son in law and successor of the dealership continued the growth ofthe business into the late 1970’s. Unfortunately the neighborhood demise that continued to spread acrossDetroit affected Bud Greiner’s Ver Hoven Chevrolet customer base. Business was eroding rapidly as manyformer customers were moving out to the suburbs. Those former customers were also assimilating theirlife styles into the comforts of their new residential and business surroundings.Claude “Bud” Greiner, Born in Michigan in 1921, passed away in 1979 and his wife Constantine in 1988.With lagging sales and plans of the manufacturer to consolidate the number of dealerships, Ver HovenChevrolet was closed for business in 1980, although the process took a few more years to complete.Claude Anthony (Tony) Greiner, grandson of B J Ver Hoven and Son of Bud Greiner acquired most of theassets of the former business and opened a Metro 25 Tire Distributorship and Automotive Repair Facility.Tony’s son, also named Claude opened his DISH Satellite TV Network franchise offices, service and callcenter in part of the building as well.The family still has the original blue prints and a large assortment of photos from the business operationsduring the 30's 40's and 50's on display at their facility.Ver Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

Acknowledgements & CreditsOral History and Photos from Tony & Claude GreinerDetroit City DirectoriesDetroit Business DirectoriesBurton Historical CollectionU S Federal Census RecordsFamilySearch.comAncestry.comA Family History by Norval A HansenHeritage Research / Fred Kuplicki / Historian & omVer Hoven Auto Dealership Story Copyright 2014 Fred Kuplicki Heritage Research All Rights Reserved

servicing the Ford automotive products. From what the family has been told and based upon data from the Detroit City Directory, sometime around 1933 Henry Ford stopped by Ver Hoven’s Ford dealership in a limousine and tried to buy the Ford dealership back from Ver Hoven to give to one