Bill Marker is being congratulated by Mike McConnell (left) on the sale of McConnell Chevrolet which will soon be known as Marker Chevrolet. (Photo by Lisa Van De Hey)
For over 50 years, the McConnell family has sold new and used vehicles in Gridley whether it be Fords, Mercurys, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, GMCs, Pontiacs or Chevrolets.
First starting out in 1958 at the corner of Spruce Street and Highway 99, Ed McConnell Sr., had plenty of car sales experience under his belt having two used car lots in Fresno. Ed McConnell Jr., went to work for his Dad after returning from active duty. The Ford dealership in Gridley was purchased from S.S. Hinaman after McConnell looked at five or six dealerships.
"Times weren't great," Ed McConnell stated. "My father decided Gridley had the best prospects because it was so close to Oroville, Yuba City, Marysville and Chico."
Although the population was low, people didn't mind driving to another dealership, which is still the way it is today. As a sole proprietorship, the dealership became incorporated in 1961 with Ed and his brother Richard investing money into the business. It was ten years later that Ed McConnell Sr., retired and son Ed bought out his brother after one year. Richard took over a leasing and daily rental business in Chico that their father owned.
Tom Winterstein came to work at the Ford dealership in 1972 as Sales Manager purchasing a minor interest in the corporation at that time and more later on.
Many vehicles and satisfied customers over the years lead to Ed selling out to Winterstein, thinking he was ready to retire in 1990. Sons Mike and Bruce came to him for help starting a new dealership in Sonoma County before Mike and his wife Mary Mooney McConnell settled in Gridley near her business Mooney Farms.
Mike bought out Bob Stephens Chevrolet in the former Tucker Chevrolet location in 1995 with Winterstein invested in Gridley Country Chevrolet for two years. Winterstein was bought out after two years because he only wanted to be involved in one dealership. Mike bought his Dad out in 2000 and has owned the dealership the past 12 years.
It is now time for a change for Mike. It will be quite an adjustment to be out of the car business but it is easy to see him in another line of sales. He is currently farming 30 acres of olives for his mother-in-law and will continue that but as for the big picture, Mike isn't quite sure what he will do next. He will continue to hold some shares of the dealership for the time being and his offered his help to the new owner, especially during the transition.
Bill Marker, a veteran of the automotive business, started his career washing cars while still in high school for Abel Chevrolet in Rio Vista down on the Sacramento River. Wanting to work and learn his way through every department of a dealership, Bill left Abel and eventually served in various management positions with Courtesy Chevrolet in San Jose, Mike Daugherty Chevrolet in Sacramento to the dealer/general manager with Serra Nissan, KIA and Daewoo of Sacramento. Eventually expanding his horizons, Bill went into automotive advertising as Automotive Advertising Manager for the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Denver Post. Most recently as the District Sales Manager for AutoTrader.com and Kelly Blue Book.
Bill is looking forward to setting in to the community and welcomes you to come in to the dealership to say hello.