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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Businessman looks back on 60-year career

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Car dealer Don Crossland, who has the longest running single-owner business in Monett, marked his 60th year of selling cars in 2010. Crossland stands against his display of business memorabilia and photographs at his office at Thirteenth and East Broadway, where his used car dealership has operated since 1959. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Don Crossland has been selling cars in Monett for 60 years. His business, Crossland Motors, is the longest running single owner business in town. Crossland recently took time to reflect on the Monett business landscape as he has seen it.

Crossland, 78, has had wide ranging experience in Monett. He recalls working for Monett Times owner Ken Meuser as a newspaper carrier as a teenager, buying his route for $25 and having to track down customers who would hide from him to avoid paying their 50 cents a week. Crossland's father was in the car business starting out working for Les Mason's Ford dealership. A photo of his father's first demonstrator model from 1936 hangs on the office wall.

"I worked at the McKee Sheehan Drug Store while I was in high school," Crossland said. "I thought I'd go to school and become a pharmacist. One of the pharmacists there said I was a square peg in a round hole, that I wouldn't fit in. I went to SMS (Southwest Missouri State College) and thought I'd be an accountant. I'm glad I didn't stay at that.

"One summer I worked for Curt Neagler, who had a used car lot at Pickwick and Cherry and a DX Station across the street," Crossland continued. "That's where I got my real education."

While working at the McGinty-Frohlich clothing store in Monett, Crossland was approached by Lester Hilton, who offered Crossland a job. In return for running the filling station and grocery story Hilton had at Thirteenth and Central, where Napa is now, Crossland could sell cars from the lot and make some money.

Crossland was good at it. By 1950 the side job had turned into a successful operation. Crossland began selling cars out of the yard of his parents' home at 1106 Sycamore. A photo of their yard filled with cars from the 1940s also hangs on the office wall.

By 1952, Crossland was selling so many cars that local notary Hazel Lawson told him he had passed the number allowed without a license. So Crossland ordered his D tag number, which he still uses today, and started Crossland Motors.

In 1954 Crossland moved his operation to 102 Sycamore. He would end up buying the corner lot at Thirteenth and East Broadway, move the houses off the site and relocate in 1959, where his business operates to this day.

The 1950s were some of the best times to be in the car business, Crossland recalls.

"Cars all look alike now," Crossland said. "In the 1950s you could tell what cars were by looking at them. There's no pizzazz to it like there was then."

Active in the Monett Chamber of Commerce, Crossland remembers supplying exceptional convertibles for the royalty to ride in during the Christmas parade. Today's cars he said are built better, with odometers that show true mileage records, unlike the old ones that rolled over at the 100,000 mile mark.

Older cars, if kept well, could last just as long. Crossland told of a time a 1979 Cadillac come to him with 95,000 miles on it. He told the owner he doubted the mileage total. The owner admitted the odometer had rolled over twice. With 295,000 miles on the car, Crossland sold the car and resold it again. Last he heard the car had gone to Texas and may still be on the road.

"I sold a lot of 16 year olds their first cars," Crossland said. "I've sold cars as Christmas presents and showed up on Christmas day to deliver them. I've done a lot of business with Jack Henry. I bought all the Jack Henry program cars before they started buying their own."

Crossland said he got help from ME Gillioz and his son-in-law, Walter Reynaud, financing business through the Gillioz Bank. Much of Crossland's success came from repeat customers.

"I've tried it all. I always priced myself under the bigger dealers," Crossland said. "I've worked hard at honesty and being fair."

Crossland said he may not sell as many cars as he used to. His wife, Betty, kids him these days by calling the car business "an expensive hobby." Betty said they sleep better now not having to worry about whether or not customers will pay.

"We used to get a lot of business from the railroaders," Crossland said. "They didn't care how much a car cost, only if they could make the payments. We moved things around to make it work for them. We signed 'em up and kept them riding."

In Crossland's early days of doing business, he said Monett had a car dealer for every brand. Today only a handful of small dealers like himself are still in the area. Crossland has diversified by going into the storage business. Betty handles all the arrangements for the storage units Crossland built on Chapell Drive, and Crossland checks them personally every day.

Crossland offered no trade secrets for his success other than hard work and staying at it. He said he had no plans to retire.

"It's good for a person to get up and go to work every day," Crossland said. "I've had a good time and made a good show of doing it."

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I remember Don having I believe to be the first robo car wash in town this was in 1968. My Dad bought a 1949 yellow studebaker from Don for $50.00 this would have been in the early to mid 1950s. Its good to see Don is still around. L W South bend IN.

-- Posted by wizard071 on Thu, Nov 18, 2010, at 6:38 PM

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