West Lebanon resident Robert (Bob) Pringle’s life story
could very well be used as a prime example that with hard work and sheer
determination, one can come from a modest background and rise to the pinnacle
of success in their chosen profession.
Longtime Upper Valley residents who remember the mid-’80s should recall watching the arrival of a brand new auto dealership that proudly bore his name: Pringle Chevrolet-Volvo, located on LaBombard Street in Lebanon, just off Route 120. In its hay day, the dealership was constructed from the ground up featuring a state-of-the-art 20,000-square foot building that cost $750,000 back in 1984.
With Bob at the helm, the dealership quickly became established as a major player in the Upper Valley expanding to more than 34 employees and sold some 800 automobiles while recording $6-million in sales in its debut. From there, the dealership had quite a journey before it was finally taken over by the Miller Auto Group just last year before it was sold off and demolished to make room for the new Dartmouth Coach facility. Through it all, Bob Pringle silently watched as a portion of his success story faded into history.
“I have photos in my house taken with me in front of the building when the dealership was constructed and now sadly, I have one taken with me in front of the demolished structure. Bob explained. “I have so many memories connected with that building and now it’s completely gone, but not the memories and friendships I developed there. I still get many calls from former employees on my birthday and that simply means the world to me.”
Bob will turn 79 years of age this June and while “retirement” appears to agree with his lifestyle, it hasn’t slowed him down one bit. He currently works part-time for North Country Auto Rental and Shuttle Service in Lebanon, a company he originally founded. Bob now transports VIPs in the luxury town car service while also handling group outings. He has never lost his love for driving.
“Oh, I just love doing this! You meet so many nice, interesting people. I can’t wait to help with all those transportation needs. Being around and helping people was always something I enjoyed and still do.”
Bob acquired his passion for driving on the racetrack. He joined the New England Antique Racers (NEAR) back in the 1990s and it became one of his most cherished passions. Bob had competed in his younger days on short tracks around New England so joining NEAR was a natural. He restored a 1937 Chevrolet Coupe decked out with a Purple Passion paint job and the number 92 on the doors.
One of Bob’s crowning moments behind the wheel came during Speed Weeks at Daytona, Fla. when he competed at the nearby New Smyrna Speedway against 14 highly ranked drivers and took the Purple Machine into victory lane.
“That was some heavy-duty racing,” Bob quipped. “Everyone meant business that night. No “gentlemen racing” involved. I had the pole position and took the win. The next night I started in the middle of the pack and finished second. It was a great experience.”
Bob’s racing experiences were a welcomed pasttime from his hectic work schedule. His work ethic, combined with his compassion for both his customers and employees, bordered on legendary. He lived by one simple but effective rule of business.
“If you are going to run a business you should be the first one who puts a key in the door in the morning and the last one to lock up at night. The customer deserves a full effort.”
Bob was born in a tiny town near Hartford, Conn. by the name of Weatogue. His father, George Oliver Pringle, a World War I veteran, had come to the United State from Scotland to raise his family and later establish his own business, a Mobil Gas Station adjacent to a car dealership. Bob’s talent was quickly realized by other business owners in the area, and before long he landed a position at nearby Mitchell Volvo as the parts and service department manager, where his fortunes soared. Bob had taken that Volvo service department to the number one rating in New England. He never forgot those roots in his own business.
“I was once told that the service department and parts room of a dealership were not the back rooms of the business, but the backbone of that business. I have always lived by that saying.”
Today Bob and his wife Frances (Fran) live in West Lebanon and have two daughters, Leslee and Wendy.