Iconic Ferris sign soon to disappear from Phila dealership
TimesReporter.com Jim Cummings
Duane "Red" Ferris founder of Ferris Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and Toyota dealership in New Philadelphia.
An iconic sign soon will be gone from the New Philadelphia landscape.
The Ferris Chevrolet sign at 634 Wabash Ave. NW is being removed as part of the major renovation project at the dealership.
“It’s the only change – in my mind — that I’m not really excited about. I love that old sign. At my age, I’ve never driven down Wabash Avenue when it wasn’t there,” said General Manager Pat Ferris, who is 42 years old.
The sign was erected when the business moved to its present site in 1968. At that time, Ferris was the largest Chevrolet dealership in the area, “selling the most new and used cars in our market area in those days,” Duane “Red” Ferris, 86, and retired, said in a recent interview.
For a man who “had no idea that I’d become a car dealer – I just took one step after another, and that’s way it worked out,” Ferris made a big footprint throughout the Tuscarawas Valley region.
It’s not just being the founder of what would eventually become Ferris Chevrolet Buick Cadillac Toyota in New Philadelphia. He’s also made a substantial impact on the community, joining with Dana Lewis as an investor for the Lewis Center and Schoenbrunn Inn in New Philadelphia.
However, the Ferris dealership is wrapping up a major upgrade that started last fall. The scale of the renovation throughout the dealership was the most since it opened in 1968, and upgraded the showroom, offices and waiting lounge. The approach to the service department is now covered, and the entry door opens automatically to keep customers out of adverse weather conditions. The separate Toyota and used car building also received upgrades.
As part of those changes, General Motors Corp. “has a whole new brand image that we’re required to uphold,” Pat Ferris said.
He pushed to keep the Ferris sign, a curbside fixture for nearly 45 years.
Ferris even sent a copy of the article about “Red” Ferris featured in the 2013 edition of Visions of Tuscarawas County, Ohio, produced by The Times-Reporter for the Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce.
“The sign is a matter of heritage and community, a kind of iconic landmark,” Pat Ferris said. “This community is way bigger than Ferris Chevrolet, but we’ve been such a part of this community for so long.
“A lot of the other changes are necessary to keep up with customer conveniences, but the signage really doesn’t affect that,” he said. “A lot of people recognize it.”
Indeed, the dealership’s advertising proclaims “Think Ferris!” The slogan also forms the company’s website address.
However, he said, “we’ve been notified that we’re not going to be able to keep the original sign there.”
He anticipates the sign will be removed by the end of March.
“Unfortunately, it’s gone the way of Mr. Cost Plus,” Ferris said of the iconic caped crusader character created by the late Archie Huebner at his dealership in Carrollton. Huebner and “Red” Ferris were friends and contemporaries in the field.
Huebner erected a 21-foot tall statue of the character — its head alone nearly as tall as Huebner himself — atop his dealership. His television commercials proclaimed “Cost Plus prices ... Cost Plus prices ... for a Chevrolet or an Oldsmobile, you’ll always save with a Cost Plus deal!”
Pat Ferris said, “In retrospect, he was such a pioneer. That kind of marketing isn’t as prevalent now.”
Ferris said, “We’ve kicked around some ideas about what to do with the sign. We’ve thought about using it in the showroom, but it’s so large that you can’t do that practically. It doesn’t fit with the new brand image, either. There’s also been talk about re-erecting it toward the rear of the lot.”
Although there aren’t any formal plans yet for the sign, Pat Ferris pledged, “We’re still here, and it’s still the same family that’s been serving the Tuscarawas Valley forever.”