The Ford dealership on U.S. 41-North in Henderson is once again locally owned and has a new name: Kate Faupel Ford.
Kate Faupel Grealish (who goes by her maiden name professionally) announced the acquisition of the former Henderson Ford on Thursday evening on Facebook. Online reaction was swift: “I had 45 comments within 45 minutes,” she said Friday morning on the new dealership’s first day of business.
By early Friday afternoon, her post had attracted more than 130 congratulatory comments — “Proud of you, Kate! This is a big win for Henderson!” a typical comment read — and more than 300 likes.
“We’re thrilled, really,” Kate Faupel said in a Zoom interview with her father, Ron, who came to Henderson in 2001 to run what became Henderson Chevrolet GMC a short distance away on 41-North. “For the Ford store to be locally owned again, there’s been a tremendous amount of positive community reaction to this.”
She will be the dealer principal of Kate Faupel Ford. The Faupel name became well-known years ago in the Tri-State auto market from Ron Faupel’s Evansville-Henderson television commercials urging customers to “cross that money-saving bridge” to come to Henderson Chevy.
At his wife Debbie’s urging, the normally low-key Faupel nearly 10 years ago began appearing in the commercials wearing garish slacks made by Loudmouth Golf. After joining her father at the Chevy dealership in 2020, Kate Faupel began appearing in commercials with him wearing matching golf skirts.
She became general manager of Henderson Chevrolet in late 2021 and has graduated from the National Automobile Dealer Association’s NADA Academy, a year-long training program for current and future car dealership leaders.
She said she and her father are owners of Kate Faupel Ford, while Joey Marshall, general sales manager at the Chevy dealership, has an ownership interest. (Ron Faupel’s longtime partner, Terry Cullen, an auto dealer in the Greater Atlanta metro area, was present for the interview at the Ford dealership but offered no comments.)
Ron Faupel made clear that his daughter will be running the Ford dealership.
“She’s the dealer principal. She’s been approved by Ford Motor Co.,” he said. “She’s president. I’m the secretary, which she’s already having a lot of fun with, saying I’m her secretary.”
“It’s not like Wendy’s,” a business that founder Dave Thomas named after a daughter but that he, in fact, operated, Ron Faupel said.
“Kate graduated from dealer academy, and she’s really been running (the) Chevy (dealership) the last couple of years,” he said. “She’s an IU (Indiana University) business graduate and she spent five years at Kohls” as a merchandising analyst and assistant buyer before joining Henderson Chevy.
“It’s not like I just named it after my daughter,” Faupel said. “She’s the dealer, she’s running the store, and she has a lot of experience. It lets Dad play more golf.”
Kate Faupel will also remain general manager at Henderson Chevrolet.
They said they first began talking two years ago with Henderson Ford owner Dave Stumbo of Bowling Green — who purchased the former Dempewolf Ford 4½ years ago, changing the name to Henderson Ford — about acquiring the local dealership. The discussion that ultimately resulted in the acquisition began around August.
Acquiring a Ford dealership held a lot of appeal, they said. “We have lot of friends who are either Ford guys or Chevy guys,” Ron Faupel said.
“Or girls,” Kate intervened. “They say they are excited because ‘I can finally do business with you.’” (At least two local Ford guys, she said, seemed to be jostling Friday to be the first to buy a new pickup from Faupel Ford.)
“We’re really excited to serve” loyalists of another car brand, she said. “Kentucky is really a Ford state.”
Ford Motor Co. builds Ford F-250-to-F-550 Super Duty pickups and Ford Escape, Lincoln Corsair, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs at its two sprawling assembly plants in Louisville.
“There are a lot of loyal Ford buyers in the area,” she said. “It will be good be able to serve them.”
Kate Faupel Ford will have two new sales managers: Jerry Maggard, who has more than 20 years of auto sales experience, most of it with other Tri-state Ford dealerships, and auto dealership veteran Dante Gill, who most recently has been a finance manager at Henderson Chevy.
Additionally, Elizabeth Tappan, the daughter of longtime former Dempewolf Ford general manager Rick Tappan, will come on board as finance manager.
A new website, KateFaupelFord.com, is expected to go live in a week to 10 days.
“It’s very, very important. It’s crucial,” Grealish said of a dealership’s website. “I think 85 to 90% of customers do online research before the step in a dealership. On average they only visit 1.2 dealerships before they buy. It’s very important to have a great online presence.”
“That’s one thing Kate really did for us at the Chevy store,” Ron Faupel said. “Being younger, she understands the, what do you call it?”
“Digital retailing,” Kate Faupel said. “Digital storefront.”
Meanwhile, they said the inventory of new and used vehicles has improved from the thin days during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“One of the first things we’ll focus on is to get inventory,” Kate Faupel said. “It’s no secret to people going by, (the Ford lot is) barren. Our partners with Ford (Motor), we’ll be calling every single day” to secure new vehicles.
“Ford normally helps new dealers with inventory,” Ron Faupel said. “I think we’ll be able to fill up over the next three to four months.”
Meanwhile, the Ford and Chevy dealerships will be operated separate corporately. Faupel Automotive Inc. will be doing business as Kate Faupel Ford while Henderson Chevrolet Inc. will continue doing business as Henderson Chevrolet GMC.
The local Ford dealership dates its history back 55 years, when Taylor-Dempewolf Ford was incorporated in October 1968 under the ownership of Roy M. Taylor and Carl C. Dempewolf. It was soon operating at the corner of Sixth and North Green streets.
In July 1973 Carl Dempewolf purchased Taylor’s interest; in July 1974 he renamed the dealership Dempewolf Ford Inc. In August 1982 Dempewolf purchased the Lincoln-Mercury franchise from Galloway Motors.
Tommy Dempewolf in February 1988 purchased the dealership from his father, Carl.
In April 1989 ground was broken for the new dealership at 2530 U.S. 41-North, where it relocated in February 1990.
Two brands were later dropped. After 30 years as a Mercury dealer, the franchise was terminated by Ford Motor Co. as part of a national plan.
At the end of 2011, the Lincoln franchise was sold back to Ford as a part of a restructuring of that franchise.
As Tommy Dempewolf prepared to retire, he in May 2019 sold the dealership to Bowling Green-based Toyota dealer David Stumbo, owner of Stumbo Automotive. He adopted the name Henderson Ford.