The Great Depression. The automotive industry crisis of 2008-10. Foreign competitors. And of course the occasional oil crisis. Brown’s Automotive survived it all.
On Thursday, Brown’s celebrated 100 years in the Patchogue and Bellport communities.
“Cars were practically brand new in 1917, so Brown’s was obviously very cutting edge when they opened up 100 years ago,” the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce executive director, David Kennedy, told those assembled at Brown’s Thursday.
The chamber put a party together for Brown’s, complete with a tent, live music and trays of food that were donated by 14 different restaurants from Patchogue Village.
“I know my grandfather and dad are looking down and just smiling,” said Gary Brown, the third-president of Brown’s Automotive. “And, as my sister Gail said, Grandpa would be saying: Why does he have so many cars? He was always one to say we don’t need that much inventory; we only sell one at a time.”
“But it’s really just such a blessing we were able to stay together and pull this off.”
The Brown’s operation began in Bellport Village, where Gary Brown’s grandfather, Everett Brown, then 24 years old, started his repair shop on Main Street with Willys Knight & Whippet.
Gary Brown became president in 1992, when his father, Robert Brown, became the last of Everett Brown’s three boys to retire from the family business. Brown’s moved to neighboring Patchogue in 1993.
“It was as wonderful part of Bellport history and a major part of our downtown,” Bellport Mayor Fell told GreaterPatchogue before his remarks. “When the business left Bellport there was a void in the village that really has never been filled. The family was just a wonderful family and it was sad to see them go.
“But I understood in order to grow the business, they couldn’t do it in Bellport; there was just no space,” Fell continued. “But when you look at what they’ve built in Patchogue, again it’s a tribute to the family.”
In a video made to mark the occasion, Gary Brown says he’s often asked his proudest moments as part of the century-old operation, and then he talks about what he and the team did to not have to make any layoffs during the Great Recession and automobile crisis of 2008 to 2010.
“We were able to retain every single employee, and as soon as we came out of it, we started growing like crazy,” he says. “We’ve doubled our sales since then and have grown as an overall company.”
Up and down Route 112, Brown’s now sells Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, Fiat, Apha Romeo, and used cars.
“The businesses that have stayed in the community, and prospered here, and supported the community, are our most important businesses,” said Mayor Paul Pontieri. “Gary Brown is probably on every committee that makes donations, whether it be the hospital or the YMCA.
“The stability of a community is measured by its companies,” Ponteiri added.
“So the biggest help is that fact that they’ve stayed.”