Car sales veteran, 83, as dependable as they come

April 03, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, PA. - Ezra G. Fitz Jr. doesn't like change.

He sleeps in the bedroom he was born in 83 years ago. He's been married to the same woman for 62 years, and he's been in the car business since 1947.

Fitz, of Zullinger, Pa., sold his first car, a new 1950 Chevrolet, for "under $1,500" while working for a Waynesboro, Pa., dealership.

His most recent sale was a new 2005 Buick LeSabre for $34,000 at Hicks Chevrolet-Buick-Volvo, where he has worked for 35 years.


He doesn't know how many he has sold in between.

Fitz was honored numerous times with trips for winning sales campaigns.

"I've been to Acapulco, San Diego and Hawaii several times, and once I won a trip to Paris," he said.

Fitz started in the parts department for what then was Wheat Chevrolet at 44-50 W. Main St. in Waynesboro. The dealership later became Roberts Chevrolet on South Potomac Street. Fitz stayed with Roberts for 20 years before moving to Hicks in 1970.

Fitz graduated from Washington Township High School in 1940 and went to work for Landis Tool Co. His father, Ezra Sr., worked for the tool company for 50 years, he said.

Fitz served in the Army in the Pacific in World War II. A buck sergeant, he fought in New Guinea, Morotai and the Philippines.

He learned the auto parts business on the GI Bill, he said.

A framed award sits on his desk at Hicks proclaiming that in 1948, Fitz was honored by membership in the Parts and Accessories Record Club. The award said he was entitled to wear the special emblem signifying the honor.

"I still have it somewhere," he said.

"Fifty years ago, most people wouldn't buy a car until they saved up the money," he said. "Back then, people had one car in the family. Today, everybody over 16 wants a car."

An average car loan ran for two years in the 1950s.

"Now, you can get up to 72 months," he said.

Fitz still makes what he calls "house calls. It's not done in the business anymore, but I still do them, especially for older people who don't want to come to the dealership."

A house call to Fitz is taking a car to a customer's home to try out.

"I bring all the paperwork with me and do the deal right there," he said.

Fitz said he still has a few original customers left, "but they're starting to get scarce."

Alan Shanholtz, general manager at Hicks, at 34 is young enough to be Fitz's grandson. He said many of Fitz's customers have passed on. Most of his house calls are done to accommodate their widows.

"He has a wealth of knowledge and he's dependable," Shanholtz said of Fitz. "He's here every day, every day, even if there's a foot of snow. He's meant a lot to us over the years."

Fitz said he "learned a long time ago that you have to be a good listener. I also learned that you can always say the same thing twice if you told the truth."

He wants to work as long as he feels can.

"I'm in good health and I keep regular routine," he said. "I'm here at 8:30 in the morning and I leave at 3:30 unless I have an appointment.

"I've seen too many guys retire with nothing to do. They're gone in six months."

The Herald-Mail Articles