Woodsfield Ford dealership earns 50-year award

T-L Photo/JANELL HUNTER Megan Carlini of the Ford Motor Company presents a 50-year award to Mike Knowlton, owner of Knowlton Ford in Woodsfield.

WOODSFIELD — Knowlton Ford has been a Ford franchise for 50 years with four generations of family and many longtime employees keeping the business thriving and serving the community.

Located in the heart of the village of Woodsfield, the business has been a successful small-town dealership that prides itself on its customer service. Owner Mike Knowlton gratefully and tearfully accepted a 50-year award from the Ford Motor Company on Friday at the dealership in the presence of family, friends, employees and loyal customers.

Knowlton’s grandfather, Oscar Cline, started the business in 1944 as Cline Truck and Equipment. Knowlton’s father, Charles, and mother, Delores, eventually became owners of the business and acquired a Ford franchise in 1967, when it became Knowlton Ford Mercury. Knowlton’s son, Tyler, works with his father and said they like to stay involved in the community and give support to local organizations.

“We try to support all the local teams, sporting events, fundraisers, sponsor 4-H at the fair. We try to give back because, in reality, customers are what keep us alive,” said the younger Knowlton.

“We have two of the top mechanics in the valley, and people around here know that,” said the elder Knowlton. “Dave and Mike Jones — they are brothers. Dave has been here for 28 years.”

Donny Miller, the parts manager at Knowlton Ford, has been an employee for 48 of the 50 years.

“That’s almost unheard of. Our employees are like our family,” said Knowlton. “And the community has been so good to support us. Without our faithful and loyal customers of sales and service this award wouldn’t be possible because we wouldn’t be in business. They’ve been so good to support me, and I can’t thank them enough. I try to give them the best possible service and the best prices and I think it shows that we’re in business for 50 years we must be doing something right.”

Knowlton said a repeat customer came in last week and bought a Ford Escape from his son. That customer had bought his first vehicle in 1950 from Knowlton’s grandfather.

“That was a pretty humbling experience and pretty cool,” said the younger Knowlton, whose wife, Beth, also works at the dealership as office manager and secretary. They have two young daughters, Kinsley and Kora.

Mike Knowlton’s wife, Missy, said she is very proud of her husband, son and the business. She said she is glad that her son has taken an interest in carrying on the family business.

“We are a very proud family-owned business, and I can’t be more proud of them,” she said. “Our employees are our family as well. We have a gentleman that works detailing vehicles who is 82. He tells us he loves coming to work and says we are his ‘other family.’ I don’t know what we would do without them. We are very blessed.”

Megan Carlini, Pittsburgh regional sales manager for the Ford Motor Company, presented a large plaque to Mike Knowlton to recognize the 50-year milestone, along with a letter from Diane Craig, director of U.S. sales for Ford in Dearborn, Mich., and a “special pin.”

“Ford Motor Company has been around for 114 years, and Knowlton has been with us for 50 years. …This is a wonderful honor and achievement by you and your family,” Carlini said as she presented the award.

Carlini said her regional office covers northeast Ohio, western Pennsylvania, part of West Virginia and some of Maryland and western New York, a region that has a total of 179 dealerships.

“It is a very select few stores that have been around for 50 years,” Carlini noted. “This is an extremely limited and special award. (Knowlton) talked about family, and he worked with his father, and now his son. Ford Motor Company is also a family company, and for our partners to have generational experience is tremendous.”