Valley Motor Sales—which has been selling and servicing vehicles in Bethel for decades—shuttered its operations in June. Its longtime neighbor, GW Plastics, has purchased the 1.8-acre lot and building, as a space for a potential expansion.
As part of the transition, an auctioneer from C.W. Gray & Sons was at Valley Motors to auction off contents of the business’ showroom and garage. In addition to quantities of shop equipment, specialty tools, and more, some history was on the block, including a wooden sign bearing the words, Benson Chevrolet.
There has been a garage at 207 Pleasant Street since 1928.
First it was Leon Perkins’ Mobile gas station—which became a Chevrolet “agency.” Perkins sold the business to the Benson family in 1934, and Newell Wood started working for the Bensons in 1946.
Wood purchased what was by then called Valley Motors in 1964— and before long, his two sons, Dennis and Gary, were helping out at the business.
Dennis and Gary eventually took over the thriving Chevy franchise, which at its height employed 25.
Valley Motors still employed 16 in 2009, when Chevrolet, then in bankruptcy proceedings, advised 1100 of its dealers, including the one in Bethel, that it was terminating their franchise arrangement.
Valley Motors had to cut back but it carried on with a smaller staff, continuing to service vehicles and sell used ones.
In a recent interview with The Herald, owner Dennis Wood said a number of factors contributed to his recent decision to sell.
One was the death of his brother two years ago. Also, he noted, the loss of the franchise made it harder to find used cars to sell, as Valley Motors was no longer dealing with trade-ins.
Earlier this year, Wood turned to his business neighbor, GW Plastics— which began operations in 1955—with an offer to sell the land.
“We sold pieces to them in the past, so they were able to add on,” Wood said. “It is what my dad would have wanted.”
Brennan Riehl, GW Plastic’s president and CEO, said in an interview earlier this month that the acquisition provides “a little breathing space” for the rapidly growing business.
GW has manufacturing plants in Texas, Arizona, China, Mexico, and Ireland, he said, but the original Bethel site remains the firm’s “global headquarters” and the location where most of the engineering happens.
Riehl declined to detail plans for the site, which are still being “finetuned.”
Because 207 Pleasant Street was the site of a garage for 90 years, there have been some environmental issues to address.
In 2016, the parcel was identified as a hazardous waste site by the state. Valley Motors entered into a “brownfields reuse” program of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
After completing a required remediation plan, the property received a designation from DEC, acknowledging that all work had been done and that no further assessment nor monitoring would be needed, as long as the property is used for industrial purposes.
This year, GW had another environmental review done, and it applied to and was accepted into the DEC’s “brownfields reuse and environmental liability limitation program.”
Wood gave a special nod to the three “extremely dedicated employees” who stayed on with him in Valley Motors’ final run. The three are Tracey Rogers, service manager; Jeremy Giambi, technician; and Melissa Lagerstedt, office manager.
“The hardest part about this is not being able to give them a job anymore,” Wood said.
Dennis Wood may not be completely done with selling vehicles, however. He said he is contemplating moving his car sales business to the property he owns across the street, the former Valley Equipment Sales. The Bethel Development Review Board will review on July 17 his conditional use application for car sales at that site.
-- BY SANDY VONDRASEK