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.”
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.
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.