When H.A. Boyd’s Volkswagen dealership was acquired and rebranded by Autohaus Lebanon Volkswagen on June 1, 2020, it ended a decades-long tradition in Lebanon city. H.A. Boyd’s had served the Lebanon community for more than 66 years, primarily at 1250 Chestnut St. in the city.
Scott Ortenzio was employed by H.A. Boyd’s for 43 of those years, 34 of which were spent as the local car dealer’s general manager.
“I would say the key was our empathy for the customers,” said Ortenzio. “You’ve got to give customers the same service that they’ve come to expect. That’s what made us successful. Every time they went to buy a car, they came to us. It was the place to go if you wanted a Volkswagen. Longevity helps, too. It’s comforting to know that you have guys who are reliable.”
Elisabeth Boyd sold the VW dealership to Autohaus Lebanon Volkswagen last June, and she died on Jan. 1. She was preceded in death by her husband, Henry A. Boyd – the business’ namesake – by 23 years.
“It was a surprise to everyone,” said Ortenzio. “June 1st came around, and the people from Autohaus came in. Mrs. Boyd said, ‘I’m selling, and they’ll be taking over.’ Then Mrs. Boyd died, and, at the end of the month [January 2021], they let me go. I don’t know for sure, but I was under the impression that when Mrs. Boyd sold it, everybody was going to keep their jobs.”
“They were going to keep the H.A. Boyd name, but they changed it,” added Ortenzio. “The [Boyd] daughters were very upset that the H.A. Boyd name didn’t live on. Plus, I wasn’t happy about it, because I was responsible for building the name to what it was.”
“We were already in the car business, and it’s a VW dealership,” said Carol Wanner, who along with her husband Tom own both Autohaus Lebanon Volkswagen and Autohaus Lancaster. “We just decided to buy it because we were already in that business. It seemed like the obvious thing to do. Also, it was because my husband was acquainted with the Boyds. It expands our reach.”
A veteran of World War II, Henry Boyd established the H.A. Boyd’s dealership in Manheim in 1954. Seven years later, he moved the dealership into the building he constructed at the corner of Chestnut and 12th streets in Lebanon.
H.A. Boyd would go on to become a well-known fixture in the Lebanon community, and the only Volkswagen dealership this side of Harrisburg, Reading and Lancaster.
“Mr. Boyd served as a paratrooper in World War II,” said Ortenzio. “He served in Europe and fell in love with the German culture. He was a car guy before the war. He went over to Germany and made a deal with Volkswagen. That’s how he got into being a VW dealer. He had a history of getting in early. He was the fourth dealer on the east coast to sign up for it.”
“He had a piece of ground in Lebanon and built there in 1961,” Ortenzio continued. “From 1961 to 1972, he was the owner and general manager. He ran everything, but he had a heck of a staff, three of whom went on to have their own dealerships, which is, I think, why they had success.”
From 1972 to 1985, Boyd also operated a foreign car dealership at 3091 Lebanon Road in Manheim, the current site of Iron Valley Harley-Davidson. Boyd also continued to operate the Volkswagen dealership in Lebanon, and it was around that time that Elisabeth, the second Mrs. Boyd, came to work as the business’s office manager.
When Henry Boyd passed away in 1997, Elisabeth Boyd made the decision to continue having H.A. Boyd’s serve the Lebanon community.
“At that time, she discovered the importance of loyalty to employees,” said Ortenzio. “Many of her employees were there for a long time. She recognized that it was a viable business with me and my team.”
“Mrs. Boyd didn’t know anything about the car business,” Ortenzio added. “She never sold a car in her life, but she allowed me to run the business. Now, with a lot of the car dealerships, people will go in, and they will try to take advantage of them, in any way they can. That’s how many of the dealerships are doing business these days.”
“My husband Tom has been in the car business since 1982, and over the years, he had been friends with the Boyds and really had a fond relationship with them,” said Wanner. “I met Elisabeth Boyd last April and we hit it off right away. She was quite the business owner, up until five years ago when she became ill. I’m so grateful I had a chance to meet her. She had a ton of personality and I admired her commitment to the community.”
Volkswagen, or “people’s car,” is one of the largest vehicle manufacturers on Earth. Not long after H.A. Boyd’s dealership was established, the now-iconic VW Beetle took the world by storm.
But while the Volkswagen brand has gone through numerous changes over the past eight decades, so has the automobile industry itself.
“Car sales have evolved,” said Ortenzio. “It’s not a constant thing. You have good years and bad years. It’s a big rollercoaster. When people think of Volkswagen, they think of the Beetle. Volkswagen was also one of the first manufacturers to go big into diesel. Now they’re producing electric cars. It’s been a huge evolution.”
“I had clientele nationwide,” continued Ortenzio. “People would talk to me because they knew they could talk to me. The nucleus of our customer base was from Lebanon, but we also had customers in Hershey and Harrisburg. I attribute that to how we treated our customers. I had a very, very loyal following. I still have people calling me because I’m still trusted in that realm.”
“For that dealership to be there that many years, it provided a service to the community,” said Wanner. “Just think about all the people who were employed there over the years. Some of the employees stayed, but there was some transition. It says something about the Boyds. They had loyal employees who worked really hard.”
Wanner said she is just getting to know Lebanon, but that it already seems like a wonderful community. “Every single person I’ve met there is really passionate about the area. They’re great, kind people,” said Wanner. “What I know about it, I love. I can see the budding possibilities in Lebanon. I think Lebanon has a lot of promise.”
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