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Valley News Dispatch

Freeport residents lament closure of Devereaux car dealership

Mary Ann Thomas
| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, 4:36 a.m.
New cars on sale at Devereaux Chevrolet in the 1950s.
New cars on sale at Devereaux Chevrolet in the 1950s.

For decades, residents would “Get a Chevy from Devy,” but no more.

After 95 years of ownership by three generations of Devereauxs, the Freeport car dealership site at 230 Buffalo St. is on the market for $595,000.

Along the major thoroughfare out of town, the showroom of Devereaux Motor Sales was a sight to behold. For decades, many passersby on foot or in cars could catch a glimpse of new cars like a 1958 two-tone Bel Air hardtop.

“We used to walk over to see the new cars,” Mayor James Swartz said. “It’s been a landmark for years.”

The closure at the end of August took the town by surprise. Area residents posting on the Facebook page “Freeport, PA Area Bulletin Board” lamented the closure of the iconic dealership.

“It’s just sad,” one person posted.

Other customers said they would miss the repair shop.

“A lot of people bought their cars there,” Swartz said. “I can’t figure it out.”

Swartz estimated that 10 or so workers likely lost their jobs.

Owner Phillip Devereaux of Harrison did not return requests for comment.

There’s been a lot of interest in the site. There is 23,400-square-feet building on almost 1.4 acres of land, according to the listing agent, Anthony Cost of Hanna Langholz Wilson Ellis in Pittsburgh.

“We have had a lot of locals more or less kicking the tires to find out what was going on,” he said.

There are a multitude of uses for the site, which is zoned highway commercial.

“Another dealership would be great,” Cost added. “It’s a nice retail site with great visibility.”

The Devereaux site generates about $6,000 in tax revenues for Armstrong County, Freeport and the Freeport Area School District.

Devereaux Motor Sales first opened in 1923 on High Street across from the present day post office and adjacent to the current Bumble Bee Learning Center and Day Care, formerly the Freeport elementary school, according to Steve Gardner’s “History of an Allegheny River Town: Freeport, PA.”

Studebakers were among the first cars founder Tom “T.E.” Devereaux sold in the late 1920s.

Devereaux moved to Second Street in 1941 and then to its present location, the foundation of the former Freeport Feed and Mill Co. in 1953, Gardner said.

In the beginning, the High Street business featured a car showroom, service shop, one gasoline pump out front and a bicycle rental, according to Clyde Leri, 92, of Lower Burrell, who spent most of his life in Freeport.

Back in the 1930s to 1950s, some residents used bicycles to get around town as not too many of them had cars, Leri noted.

“Early, the dealership had one new car, and people looked at it and ordered it,” he said.

Leri remembered looking at his first car there, sometime around 1946. He inquired about a prospective sale with Paul Devereaux, who went on to open the Devereaux dealership in McKeesport.

“I told him that I had a couple hundred dollars and Paul said, ‘Come back when you have $800.’”

Leri ended up buying his first car from a Chrysler dealer in Kittanning. But he did return to Devereaux in Freeport to buy a Chevy Blazer.

Devereaux flourished in the mid-20th century, when Freeport was home to seven grocery stores, seven bars and seven churches, Leri said.

Tom Devereaux had four sons and a daughter. Dick and Bill ended up operating the Freeport dealership, with Bill’s son, Phillip later taking the reins of the Freeport dealership.

As time went on, larger dealerships popped up and proved to be tough competitors, Leri said.

“Given Devereaux’s small size, just like the small grocery stores competing with Walmart, they went up against competition,” Leri said.

Devereaux’s lost its Chevy dealership in 2012 and became Devy Auto Park, an independent automobile dealership specializing in used vehicles, Gardner said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, mthomas@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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