Red River Motor Company | The Story Behind the Business
by Brad Troedel
If you have ever seen any of the commercials, newspaper ads, billboards, or any other various advertisements for Red River Motor Company (also known as Red River Chevrolet) you would have probably heard about how they have been “Making Car Buying Fun Since 1931”. The company seems to stand behind that and be quite proud of the fact that they have been around for so long. Well, I must admit, since I have joined the Red River Motor Company family I see that they are still proud of this fact within the company. There are pictures hanging on the walls that are easily older than 50 years. These pictures are all of the dealership at that time. Quite impressive actually. Then they even have a display wall named the “Red River Motor Company Hall of Fame”. This wall contains photographs of all the employees that have/had been with the company for more than 20 years. They are also proud to say that a few of them on the wall were with the family for more than 50 years.
It is probably safe to say that it doesn’t take much to impress me. Let’s face it, I spend numerous amounts of time watching the television shows Pawn Stars, How its made, etc. With that being said, however, I do feel like the story behind Red River Motor Company is quite interesting and should be read. From struggling through the Great Depression, people going to jail, and the selling of both Fords and Chevrolets at one place, to others coming back from the war to try and salvage the business; there are many aspects that make this an interesting story.
George Fritze, fourth generation dealer owner, took the time out of his day to share his knowledge about the company with me. This is his story.
The Beginning of Red River Motor Company
by George Fritze
This dealership was actually built as a Ford Dealership in 1922 by two gentlemen that were not related to my family – Dr. Eichel Berger and Hardy Hearne. They operated it until about 1926. At that time my great grandfather, John Sentel, whom was a planner up in Dixie, had 5 children – three boys and two girls. His plan was to divide his plantation between the three boys. For the two girls, he wanted to put their husbands in a business to own and operate. He bought this dealership, which was then the Bossier Motor Company, in 1926. So the building that we are sitting in to this day was built in 1922, but my family acquired it in 1926. Next year (2011) it will be 85 years old in the family.
From 1926 to 1931 they stayed in business as Bossier Motor Company selling Fords. We are not exactly sure when the first one was sold, but we have records that in 1927 Ogilvie Hardware (one of the customers back then) bought new Chevrolets from the Bossier Motor Company. We know this because they stamped “Chevrolet” over the Ford Emblem on the sales invoice. Then the next year, they actually had “Chevrolet” printed on the invoices. We know that we were selling both new Chevrolets and Fords in 1927 and 1928 at Bossier Motor Company.
In the Depression, times got tough. My great grandfather had his son-in-law, Kenneth “Red” Marshall, (my great uncle) running the dealership at that time for him. Eventually the Bankers, that we were doing business with at that time, came in. When they arrived the conversation when something like this:
[Bankers] “Where are all the cars?”
[Great Uncle] “We sold them all”
[Bankers] “That’s wonderful, but where is all the money?”
[Great Uncle] “Haven’t you heard? There is a depression. No one has
[Bankers] “You’re going to jail then.”
Before he went to jail, my great grandfather called his other son-in-law, Pat Hawkins (my grandfather) to come help out his brother-in-law. He said he would. At that time Pat Hawkins had been working at A.C. Steere developing Broadmoor and South Highlands. Before that he was a bank examiner, and was about to go into business for himself. However, the family called and he decided to help out. Pat Hawkins made a deal with John Sentel that if the company was making a profit in six months then he would own half of it. If not he would leave the key in the door and never come back. Sure enough he worked out a deal with all the customers that had bought cars and worked out terms. He did not reposes a car and they successfully collected those accounts so the bankers were happy and the customers were happy. In six Months they were making a profit, thus Pat Hawkins owned half of Bossier Motor Company. On May 7th of 1931, they changed the name from “Bossier Motor Company” to “Red River Motor Company”. They Dropped Ford and kept Chevrolet because Ford (at that time) was very difficult to deal with. Chevrolet also had more options with their vehicles and more choices that would appeal to their customers. GM also had more of a variety with their products than Ford did. It was also because GM was quickly becoming the leading vehicle manufacturer.
That Chapter of the family started and continued until Pat Hawkins had two daughters. Neither of the daughters, went into the business, but their husbands both did. My uncle, Dick Johnson, came out of the army air corps at Barksdale after WWII and came to work here in 1944. He became the dealer. My father, Jim Fritze, got out of the Navy after November 22, 1953 and came to work here at that time. He and Dick Johnson became partners along with Pat Hawkins who died in 1957. My father bought Dick Johnson out in 1960 so Jim Fritze became the dealer from then until now. I started working here in 1970 and in 1986 became a partner. I am a partner to this day. It’s kind of interesting the timing. Right now its October 12, 2010, I am a dealer owner and my father is a dealer operator, and on October 31st those roles are flipping.
My Father is still here every day. He is 85 years old and he is very much in control. We are glad to have him here.
In addition to that, we have two more dealer owners coming aboard officially with Chevrolet. Patton Fritze and Alvin Olsan are going to be partners. I am the fourth generation and they will be the fifth. So it’s been a good business for our family for a long time and we hope to keep it going for a long time to come.