For this year marks the 25th anniversary of the York Automotive empire, a business Bob York started and staked his family name and reputation upon. He may have died 18 months ago at age 70, but his sons feel his presence every day.
And what would the family patriarch think of the expansion effort that is turning a 1970s automobile showroom and maintenance area into basically an all-new sales and service facility that's growing by 10,000 square feet into a new 30,000-square-foot complex?
"He's smiling," emphasizes 43-year-old Rob York, an equal partner with 41-year-old brother Nick in the second generation of the family business that has been operating out of construction trailers in front of the car lot the past few months.
"But he probably thinks we're crazy," the elder York brother said. "And we probably are. But there's no doubt he's smiling."
The expansion, which has a Nov. 1 target day for its grand reopening, has literally taken the 1960s era structure down to the metal and studs and rebuilt it.
"Outside of painting and some interior things, we hadn't really done any updating," Rob said.
That is all changing now as the front of the building is being bumped out 10 feet to add space. The project includes a new interior drop-off so whatever the weather customers can pull their vehicle inside, and an under-roof delivery area where vehicles that have been serviced can be picked up under a canopy.
Bigger, brighter offices for sales staff and the service manager (say goodbye to that old paneling) are coming. A new customer lounge is part of the project as well and will include Wi-Fi and high-speed Internet availability, a large flat-screen TV, a kitchen area and even a cappuccino machine.
"Everything is being done with enhancing the customer experience in mind," Rob York explained. "Our goal is to give our customers a better experience, whether it's sales or service. We want our customers to have the least amount of inconvenience when they bring their vehicles here for service or when they come to buy a car."
In fact, he invites those customers and the public in general to come on out any time and he'll give them a tour even as the project progresses.
"We are open," he stressed. "Service is open. We're dealing. We want to thank our customers who have just been awesome while we've been going through all this."
Wherever he has gone this summer, Rob says, people have asked about what they're doing with all the construction and activity at the dealership.
After all, it is the very same lot on which Bob York started selling cars for Jim Harris Chevrolet in 1973, and where in 1987 he opened York Pontiac-Olds-GMC.
The automobile empire has done nothing but grow since. York Automotive Group was established in 2000 with the addition of the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep franchise in Crawfordsville. In 2005 the York Automotive Group added Chevrolet Buick and Pontiac franchises in Brazil. And in 2006 added Chevrolet to the Greencastle dealership.
Rob York said he considers it an honor when people tell him --and apparently they tell him often -- that "you're just like your dad."
"He was just a great man," he adds. "The interesting thing about being in a family business forever is we didn't always agree on everything but we knew we were going to make it work and work together."
Rob York says his father "speaks to us every day, I tell you. I just can't pick up the phone and talk to him."
He and brother Nick say they continue to run the business the same as if their father were still the chairman of York Automotive.
"We've been able to take his vision," Rob said, "and his foundation and take it into the 21st century and beyond.
"This project, with any luck at all, should take us to the next generation."