Honoring a Legacy
When Lewis Reed opened his Dodge dealership 106 years ago in October 1915, he never knew he was starting a family tradition that would be carried out for 97 years and three generations. Since then, the business grew and transformed from a small-scale garage and dealership into one of the largest and most recognized commercial enterprises on Rockville Pike.
Lewis and Edgar Reed’s business philosophy was simple:
Treat your customer as your friend and always do what you promise.
The photo above shows the Rockville Garage where Lewis Reed got his start by becoming a partner with Robert L. and Griffith Warfield in 1914. The Warfield brothers had purchased this building in July 1915, from Lee Ricketts and Sons who had the Overland Agency. In 1917, Lewis Reed bought out the Warfield brothers’ interest and continued the business until 1919 when he was joined by his brother, Edgar. The firm’s name was changed to Reed Brothers upon a suggestion of the late Judge Edward C. Peter.
Reed Brothers handled the first Dodge cars placed on the market in Montgomery County, Maryland. The company continued for two generations later under the Gartner family and sold tens of thousands of cars to generations of local drivers. The late George M. Hunter, President of the Montgomery County National Bank, purchased the first automobile sold by the Rockville Garage.
Initially, Reed Brothers sold Oldsmobile and Hudson along with Dodge. The first Plymouth was built in 1928 and Plymouths were sold at Reed Brothers from 1930 until 1969, when the Plymouth car was given to the Chrysler dealers. In 1928, when Walter P. Chrysler took over after Horace and John Dodge died, Lewis Reed became an original member of the Chrysler family. By 1929, when the stock market crashed and Great Depression began, nobody could afford to buy cars. Like most other businesses, the Great Depression hit hard and Reed Brothers had to rely on its Service Department to make ends meet. But, the dealership survived through these lean times.
During World War II, Reed Brothers Dodge had virtually no new cars to sell for three and a half years. Tires and parts were rationed. Strict price ceilings governed used-car sales. Used cars were really hard to find, because people couldn’t afford to give them up. So, most dealerships had to rely on their service and parts departments to fix the cars people couldn’t replace. Empty showrooms were a problem. When manufacturers halted car production and many dealers went bankrupt, Lewis Reed converted his car showroom into a display room and sold GE washing machines, Westinghouse Radios, and other large appliances to fill the gap.
The dealership survived The Great Depression, World War II, the first Chrysler Bailout and resurgence under Lee Iacocca, the sale of Chrysler to Daimler and the sale to the private equity firm Cerberus. Reed Brothers has, in fact, survived everything but Chrysler itself. Whether a franchise is run by a second- or third-generation dealer or is older than even Chrysler itself didn’t seem to matter when Chrysler decided to cut dealership ranks during their 2009 bankruptcy process. After almost 95 years selling Dodges, Reed Brothers was one of the 15 dealerships in Maryland and 789 dealerships nationwide notified by Chrysler that their franchise agreement would not be renewed.
The dealership’s historical legacy continues to this day on the site of its former location at 15955 Frederick Road in Rockville, which is now the Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro Apartments. Bainbridge Shady Grove Metro Apartments pays homage to this history with commemorative art on the former site of the iconic Reed Brothers Dodge dealership.
Tom Keady, President of the Bainbridge Companies said:
Honoring the rich historical legacy of this site was extremely important to us. With the sculpture and the floor plan names, our residents and visitors feel a real connection to the site’s past, and we pay tribute to Reed Brothers Dodge’s role in creating a vibrant Rockville.
A sculpture now installed on the property pays tribute to the oldest Dodge dealership in Maryland history. More than 20 feet high, and over 6 feet wide, the public art is inspired by 1939 Dodge headlamps and the fender of a 1957 Dodge pickup truck. Along with the sculpture, a set of Hemi Piston street lamps line the walkway towards the metro station. Historical elements have been incorporated into the interior design of the development which carries out a common theme of dealership history and automobiles.