For 55 years, the Dalgleish family sold Cadillacs in Detroit, three blocks away from the former General Motors Corp.'s old world headquarters building.
But Dalgleish Cadillac is no more, a victim of the new General Motors Co.'s plan to reduce its dealership ranks.
The shutdown admittedly was a bitter pill for family members Charley Dalgleish Jr., 84, his younger brother, Douglas Dalgleish, Sr., and Doug's sons, Doug Jr., 58, and Keith Dalgleish, 48.
Interviewed as the dealership sold off its furniture, tools and machinery at a public auction, Keith Dalgleish laments the involuntary closing. “We were the last Cadillac dealership in the Motor City, located in a building designed by famous architect Albert Kahn.”
The 1927 structure originally was a Buick zone office and factory branch. Dalgleish Cadillac had been the last remaining dealership on what had once been Detroit's vibrant automobile row along Cass Ave.
The family sold the 3-story dealership building to nearby Wayne State University, which will use it as a training facility for business entrepreneurs.
“We sold Cadillacs and LaSalles to Motown stars and generations of doctors, lawyers, Wayne faculty members and actors,” Doug Sr. recalls, noting that the nearby Fisher Theater often drew show business names performing in Broadway-bound shows.
“GM chairmen and presidents would come by regularly to ask, ‘How's business?’” he says. “Executives such as Jim Roche, Harlow Curtice, John DeLorean, Bunkie Knudsen and Tony DeLorenzo were here frequently.”
As president of the Detroit Auto Dealers Assn. in 1969, Doug Sr. co-founded the annual Detroit auto show's charity preview. Its originally priced $25 tickets benefited the Goodfellows. The tickets now are $250 and the event has become a “must-attend” affair for members of the auto industry and their spouses.
Charles Jr. says that through the years, 80% of the store's loyal customers were Detroit residents, even as the city became predominantly African-American.
Dennis Archer, one of Detroit's first black mayors “would drop off his Cadillac for service but refuse a courtesy ride downtown to the City Hall, where he had his office,” says Doug Jr. “He said, ‘I'll ride the public bus.’”
The Dalgleishes recall with mixed feelings the days when Cadillac cars were mostly fullsize DeVilles and Sevilles. Full-line strategies were introduced with the midsize Cimarron in the 1980s and the Catera in the 1990s. Neither model survived.
“Cadillac was meant to be a luxury brand from its beginning 100 years ago,' says Doug Sr. “Now it's back to its roots with the CTS and Escalade. It's a shame we won't be around to sell them.”