Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Wick Six

Wick Six
Car Ads from the Wick Six

At one time, if you wanted to buy a new car in Youngstown, you most likely would have at least looked at the dealerships on Wick Avenue known as the “Wick Six.” We had a ’56 Dodge from Strausbaugh’s and my wife’s father, who worked nearby at General Fireproofing, bought all his cars at State Chevrolet, and my wife’s first car, a ’76 Nova, came from State Chevrolet.

Actually a number of automobiles with legendary names like Nash and Huppmobile were once sold at dealerships along Wick Avenue. Volume 58 of Motor World from 1919 announced that:

Stearns Auto Sales Co., Youngstown, Ohio has purchased 70 feet on Wick Avenue where it will build a new salesroom.

There is a direct connection from Stearns Auto Sales to the Wick Six. Gene Hopper was one of the founders of Stearns. His sister married Arthur Sweeney, who, in 1955, founded the State Chevrolet dealership. The Sweeney family also was connected with the beginnings of Buick Youngstown, through the Sterns Company’s acquisition of the Buick franchise for the area in 1931.

Other franchisees followed. Hugh Kroehle, a classic car guy founded the Kroehle Lincoln-Mercury franchise. W. O. Stausbaugh launched Strausbaugh Dodge. Richard Barrett, who was in the auto business for 40 years owned Barrett Cadillac. Stackhouse Olds, also named after its founder rounded out the six.

I also found evidence of  Pontiac franchises along Wick Avenue during this time, first Buckeye Pontiac, and later Valley Pontiac. But they were never considered a part of the “Wick Six.”

Buckeye Pontiac
Pontiac ad listing Buckeye Pontiac on Wick Avenue.

Some classic cars were sold at these dealerships: all the finned “boats” of the late ’50’s and early sixties, the Mercury Comet and the Dodge Dart, Corvairs and Corvettes, the Olds 88 and the Cutlass, and all the muscle cars of the late ’60’s.

During this period, Youngstown was changing as people moved into the suburbs west and south of the city. A number of these dealerships followed, most moving to the Boardman area where a new concentration of dealerships formed. Buick Youngstown hung on until 1986 when they relocated to Market Street. State Chevrolet closed in 1998.

The buildings where these dealerships were located became derelict, and in 2016, the City of Youngstown began demolishing them. But at the Sweeney Chevrolet and Buick dealerships a couple of the Wick Six families are carrying on the car business, according to a 2019 Business Journal article. Doug Sweeney, who dusted parts shelves at State Chevrolet as a 14 year old owns these GM Franchises, buying out brother Dave’s Buick franchise in 2009. Doug had taken over the State Chevrolet franchise in 1981 until selling it in 1998. In 2009, GM awarded Doug with a Chevrolet franchise once again. His daughter Alexa Sweeney Blackann is vice president of the company. Bobby Stackhouse, grandson of the founder of Stackhouse Olds is also a managing partner. [Update: Since this article was written, Sweeney Chevrolet and Buick has become #1 Cochran Chevrolet Buick GMC Youngstown, operating at the same location. The Cochran family has a hundred year history in the automobile business and has been selling General Motors vehicles since 1965.]

The “Wick Six” recalls a different era that connects all the way back to the infancy of the automotive industry. It is a reminder of a time when Wick Avenue north of the mansions, the Butler, and what was then Youngstown University consisted of a thriving business district where Youngstown bought its cars.

16 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Wick Six

  1. Bob,
    The Lincoln – Mercury dealership immediately south of Ursuline high school was called “Wick Motors.” My grandfather was a ” mechanic” there until the early 1960’s. The dealership used to park cars on the roof! Kroehle may have bought the existing dealership.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My neighbor always bought his cars at State Chevrolet. When time came for me to buy my first new car in I believe the early 1990’s a friend and I went straight there. My friend walked through the outdoor displays, I walked into the showroom where I was totally ignored (female, 5’3”). Needless to say I bought my first new car at the up and coming new Toyota dealership in Boardman. A couple of years later I read that State Chevrolet was closing. There is a lesson in there somewhere …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I grew up on Illinois Ave just across Wick from Strausbaugh’s. We use to get the big wood crates the body parts came in from the body shop and made forts out of them on the top of the hill behind the fenced in storage for their new cars. What a blast. It was always fun the check out all the new cars in Sept when they came out. We went to every dealership and checked em out. We left the area in 1960. Moved to the Cornersburg area.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In the 1950’s, a Ford dealership by the name of University Motors was on Wick Ave. When my family moved to Youngstown in July of 1954 in order for my twin brother and me to attend the braille classes at Rayen as first graders, we leased a duplex on Roosevelt Dr., just west of North Side Hospital. Our neighbors across the drive were Joe and Barb Travers. Joe was the sales manager at University Motors. When it was time for my dad to buy his new 1955 Ford Fairlane Sunliner in the sumner of 1955, we all went to pick up the car. I remember on the showroom floor was a large carpet. The carpet was there because the dealership used to be a Pontiac dealer and the floor had a large Pontiac chief inlayed in the tile. I believe this building originally was Buckeye Pontiac. When I started as a freshman at YSU in 1966 I would occasionally walk up Wick Ave. to the Dodge and Buick dealerships to see what was on the floor or pick up the latest sales literature.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Wick Six was our auto mile sad to say that they went the way of the Suburbs it was destine to happen , I bought my first car at State Chevrolet on Wick Ave during their last days , Rayen Ave Dealers along with Donnell Ford And Stadium Lincoln Mercury leaving definitely marked the end , i Don’t blame them they fallowed the money , Every Era comes to an end , in closing It is my hope that they can develop that area of the city .

    Thanks Again Bob for a poignant story

    Joseph Napier Sr.
    Napiervision Productions

    Liked by 1 person

  6. While attending college I worked my summers at Koppers right down the road from the Wick Six. I would always drive through to see the new models 1975 thru 1979


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