Kindred Chevrolet, located at 1105 U.S. Highway 169 in Smithville, was one of the oldest businesses in Smithville and one of the longest family-owned Chevy dealerships in the nation.
Founded in 1922 by C.C. Kindred, Collins F. “Colonel” Kindred took over the dealership in the 1940s. Over the years, residents may remember seeing Collins driving in his red Silverado or his wife, Lou Kindred, cruising through town in her Oldsmobile.
“I sold cars for a long time,” Collins said.
After 97 years of tradition, the dealership recently sold to partners Eric Gentry, Chris Yates and Troy Duhon who renamed it Victory Chevrolet.
The decision to sell came from the Kindreds’ daughter, Carolyn Major, earlier this year.
“My sister and I are ready to retire. We were ready to retire before Dad was,” Major said of herself and younger sister Valerie McClellen. “Over the years, people would call and say, ‘When you get ready to sell, please keep me in mind.’”
Major said she kept everyone in mind, but something about Gentry stood out. The dealership general manager knew him, he had a good reputation and what she heard about him, Major said, was positive.
“I called him first and he wanted it,” she said.
With loyal employees, some with careers spanning more than 30 years, Major said it was important to the Kindreds to make sure all staff were retained. Gentry felt the same.
“We’ve had some faithful ones,” Lou said.
It was that reputation that drew Gentry’s attention. He reached out to the Kindreds a few years back, not for their business, he said, but to meet the “Colonel” because he was a “legend.”
“That phone call was like a grace from God,” Gentry said. “It has a long history.”
Memories of bygone era
Although the Kindred family is moving on, Collins, Lou and Major all have memories of the dealership. They include a woman who always demanded Collins change her oil on Sundays and Grandpa Kindred giving rides home from school to children.
Before the devastating flood of 1965 wiped out much of the city and prompted construction of Smithville Lake and the dam, the Kindred dealership was located downtown.
“When the dealership was downtown, that was in the 1970s, I would walk there from school,” Major recalled. “I’d hang there for a while and Grandpa Kindred would take me home. Sometimes we would get ice cream on the way.”
With a chuckle, Collins remembered his father getting conned for ice cream pretty regularly.
“That was Valerie,” Major said with a smile. “My little sister and her friend would gouge him for a free ice cream about every other day.”
Keeping with tradition
Gentry said he understands the family history and value of the dealership. Growing up on a farm in Princeton and raised with small-town values, Gentry said his business is faith based. He said he takes pride in honesty, teamwork, a strong work ethic, humility and operating by the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated.
“I called my mom and asked her how she would feel if someone was coming to buy the farm,” he said before signing the sale contract for the business that has meant a lot to the Kindred family for nearly 100 years.
“She said, Just be yourself,’” Gentry said with tears in his eyes. “That’s what I did.”