For family, all roads lead to success

For family, all roads lead to success

 

George Byers & Sons has been meeting Columbus’ transportation needs for more than a century. It began back when locals turned to then-named Blue Ribbon Livery Stable for “renting horses for funerals, weddings or just for a Sunday ride,” according to a 1915 Columbus phone book cited by family members. Founder George “Buddy” Byers, building upon his reputation as a fine judge of horses, launched the business in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1897 and moved to Columbus during his second decade in business.

George Byers & Sons has been meeting Columbus’ transportation needs for more than a century. It began back when locals turned to then-named Blue Ribbon Livery Stable for “renting horses for funerals, weddings or just for a Sunday ride,” according to a 1915 Columbus phone book cited by family members.1 Founder George “Buddy” Byers, building upon his reputation as a fine judge of horses, launched the business in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1897 and moved to Columbus during his second decade in business.2

The family-owned-and-operated company, like America at large, transitioned from hoof power to engine power in the 1920s. George Byers & Sons’ first car sold was an Essex. Other long-gone automotive brands the automotive company handled, including Hudson, Coolidge, Franklin and Sterling, suggest that entrepreneurs had myriad chances to bet on the wrong brand and, figuratively at least, end up in the ditch.

The Byerses’ first franchise, DeSoto-Plymouth, part of Chrysler Corp., had more staying power.3

The post-World War II economic boom and America’s suburban growth fueled rapidly increasing sales and expansion at the company. Since 1945, George Byers & Sons has bought several dealerships in Columbus and today operates more than a dozen franchises. Family members, now including the fifth generation, learned early that they weren’t just selling cars, they were selling customer satisfaction.4

Huntington Bank has worked with Byers family leaders for decades to help the company meet increasing consumer demand for products and services. Personal ties between the bank’s and auto dealership’s founding families date back at least to the immediate post-World War II decades, if not before, or so Huntington Bank biographer and former CEO Clair E. Fultz suggests in a note in bank archives.

In January 1960, Francis R. “Franz” Huntington, the founder’s great-grandson and a senior bank officer, wanted to be a bank director, too. But he wasn’t included in the original slate of directors proposed for a shareholder vote. Franz and his allies rounded up Huntington Bank shareholders willing to support Franz, including “the George Byers interests,” Fultz says. Helped by the Byerses’ stock holdings, Franz got himself and P.W. Huntington, the founder’s grandson, nominated for and elected to the board.5

The close ties between Huntington and the Byers interests, which have expanded beyond automobiles to include real estate, finance, hotel management, parking and car rentals, continue today. Both institutions agree that service is in many ways more important than product.

Frank M. Byers, Jr., the company founder’s grandson, summed it up best when he said, “We represent 14 different franchises, and I think sometimes businesspeople look at themselves (like) they represent a certain product line. They represent a commodity. When you do that, you lose your identity. We’re selling customer satisfaction.”6

Byers Chevrolet, 555 W Broad St, on April 22, 2014. (Columbus Dispatch photo by Tom Dodge)

The close ties between Huntington and the Byers interests, which have expanded beyond automobiles to include real estate, finance, hotel management, parking and car rentals, continue today. Both institutions agree that service in many ways matters more than product. Photo Credit: Columbus Dispatch newspaper