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Furey Motors celebrates 75 years in Malvern

By SARA KLEIN News Leader Staff Writer Published: March 16, 2017 12:00 AM
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Louis Furey was used to getting calls for help.

Sometimes the caller was having trouble digging a car out from piles of snow. Sometimes the caller's vehicle had blown a tire, or the caller was stuck on the road with a vehicle that would not budge. Calls came especially during heavy winter snows when the roads were treacherous.

People often showed up to Louis's business, Furey Motors in Malvern, with cars and trucks that needed help. But just as often, the help was needed right out on the roadside.

Louis's answer to the callers was always the same: he would be there.

When they were old enough, Louis's sons, John, Robert, Donald, Tom and Charles, piled into the tow truck with their dad ready for the rescue.

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"It was not unusual for us to go out at three in the morning in a snowstorm to help someone," remembered John, who now runs Furey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Malvern.

Indeed, "taking care of the people that came in was the main reason" Louis decided to develop his automotive business, said Robert.

Louis began his more than 40-year career in the automotive industry as a fresh-faced kid out of high school. He was not planning to establish his own business, and in fact he found his way to cars rather unexpectedly, his sons explained. It was Louis's mechanical know-how that got him started.

"He had a knack for working on cars and fixing them," said Tom.

"I have often thought it was most likely the influence of his Uncle Charlie," reflected Don, who is the family's historian. "Dad frequently spent time at his uncle's farm near Salineville and said that Charlie was very good with machinery."

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"I recall dad saying that, back when jobs were scarce as can be, and they were putting a road in, the construction company would have workers lined up hoping to get a job. Dad happened to be standing there in line and one of the pieces of equipment broke down. Dad said, 'I can fix it for you.' Dad got it running," John said.

But construction work was not the niche for Louis, who initially looked for work at a barbershop.

"They didn't have anything. He went across the street to Loudon's garage, and they were able to use some help," Don explained.

Abe Loudon, who owned the garage in Hanoverton, decided to hire Louis, who quickly demonstrated his mechanical skills. Abe taught Louis not only how to work on cars but also about running an automotive business.

In 1934 Louis moved to Malvern, where he got a job as a mechanic at Kibler Chevrolet on East Porter Street. Two years later, Curt Taylor bought the business and changed the name to Taylor Chevrolet and Oldsmobile. Louis kept on working and, thanks to the knowledge he had gained, eventually became the business's service manager.

Automobile production took a proverbial backseat in America's economy when World War II began. As a result, there were no new cars to sell. The change also meant that access to car repair services became even more important to car owners.

Louis responded by purchasing supplies and equipment from Taylor and establishing his own car repair business, Furey Motor Service, on March 15, 1942. In July of 1944, he reached another milestone when, with the help of a loan, he bought the garage building, which he formerly rented.

Louis focused his business on repairing cars and trucks. As he learned more about what his customers needed, he stocked up on equipment for additional services. He then added collision repair and painting along with, in 1947, AAA service and 24-hour towing, which provided Malvern with a complete automotive service facility. Longtime employees like Clarence Laubacher, who began working for Kibler Chevrolet in 1935 and stayed on with Furey Motors, helped strengthen the business.

Louis's towing service added revenue, but it also meant plenty of late nights and weekends spent at traffic accidents or breakdowns. Life as a business owner and busy mechanic was not easy.

"I know there were times when he considered giving it up, especially earlier in the business, and he talked about...considering what he would place up for sale," said Don.

But Louis always rolled up his shirt sleeves and decided to stick with it. Over time he hired and trained many new employees, which Don said encouraged Louis to keep doing what he loved.

"I think he enjoyed the physical work, enjoyed working with people in town ... and then as he got additional employees ... once you get established to the point where you're not thinking about closing up every day, it goes along at its own speed," Don commented.

Eventually Louis added used car sales to the business's services, and then he became a dealer for Kaiser and Frazer cars. Later, Willys, Jeeps and Studebaker cars were added to the business.

As his business grew, Louis remembered his early days and the opportunity that Abe Loudon had given to him. Extending that opportunity to new fresh-faced kids in the Malvern community became an important part of Furey Motors, which the Furey family said offered training and hands-on experience to dozens of men. Two of Louis' brothers, Art and Al, also worked at the business at various times.

As each of Louis's five sons grew up, he taught them the business. They spent their early days sweeping and washing. Then they were allowed to help employees with repair work and towing. When they showed that they were ready, the boys were allowed to take on more complex mechanical and bodywork jobs themselves.

Getting the boys involved was not only a way to provide them with job skills but was also a way for Louis to pass on values that he felt were important in his family and in the business.

"A lot of it was a way to pass on information, a way to share both knowledge of how to do things as well as work ethic," said Don.

"Dad instilled work ethic and values," remarked John. "I remember dad always saying that he believed you should live within walking distance of work, church, and school. Dad had that typical, conservative, practical mentality."

Helping the community was a key part of the business ethic that Louis passed on. As Don pointed out, "cars are a common interest of a lot of people." With so many people in the community able to be car owners after the war ended, the boys said their father's automotive know-how was able to help a large part of his community not only in the garage but, literally, in the field next to the family's home.

"Being in the automobile business, everybody has cars, and the fact that we always had a car to drive in the field near the house, all the neighborhood kids came around for the car and the tractor," Don remembered.

"I can't count the number of people who learned to drive and got prepped for their test back there in the field. Everybody in that end of town learned to drive back there in the field," John added.

Louis also believed that volunteering in the community was an important part of his role as a local business leader. His community involvement included serving as a founding member and president of the Malvern Development Corporation as well as supporting organizations such as the Red Cross, local boy scouts troops, and the Rotary Club. His business knowledge equipped him to serve as a founding director of Consumers National Bank, which is headquartered in Minerva about 10 minutes' drive from Furey Motor Service.

It is that connection with the community that has given Furey its 75 years of staying power, said John.

"We like the local community. The majority of our business is repeat and referral," he explained. "Even with the Internet, the majority of our business is people that have bought from us before or been referred to us from someone who's been with us before."

Today, Furey Motors still operates at its East Porter Street location while the dealership, Furey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, operates at Canton Road and Route 43.

Four of Louis's five sons found their lifelong career in the automotive business. And three of the sons -- John, Tom, and Charles -- continue to work at their dad's business. While Tom and Charles work at Furey Motors, John runs the Canton Road dealership. The family business is now extending to the third generation of Fureys with John's son, Keaton, who is a salesman at the dealership.

Meanwhile, Donald's son, John, is the collision shop manager for West Herr Ford in Rochester, N.Y. Robert's eldest daughter, Linda, completed an internship at Ford Motor Company during her college years, and his youngest, Diane, works in an advertising agency serving automotive clients Buick and GMC.

The love of automobiles has even extended to Louis's great-grandchildren, who Don said look forward to coming to the family picnic, where they enjoy spins in the family's cars and ATVs.

But it's the connection between Louis's automotive business and the business's customers that has been most important, said John.

"The business has meant a lot to the family in that it's touched so many people. We're getting phone calls and people stopping by. We're inundated by people talking about what dad did for them and how their kids worked for dad. That's heartwarming," he commented.

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