It used to be quite the scene, apparently, on San Francisco’s Van Ness, where drivers heading to the Golden Gate Bridge could see umpty ump new car dealerships all the way up the street. But times have changed, and one of the last new car dealerships on the avenue, Ellis Brooks Chevrolet, is going, going, gone. So now there’s no place to buy a Chevrolet in town.
The Chevy sign is still shining on Van Ness. Click to expand:
Some of the Auto Row buildings are still around, but they’ve been repurposed. Like the Cadillac Building at 1000 Van Ness for instance. Can you imagine a time when one single dealership could have had 260 employees? Let’s look back to 1964, via the Willie Brown biography from James Richardson:
“That day, pickets appeared in front of San Francisco’s posh Cadillac salesroom on Van Ness Avenue. Joining the pickets, Thomas Burbridge, the NAACP branch president, said they were protesting “the fact that out of some 260 employees San Francisco Cadillac hired only seven Negroes.” Eight police wagons were dispatched, but no arrests were made. Willie Brown and John Dearman showed up as well. They decided to take a stroll through the showroom and see what would happen. “Willie represented a lot of pimps, and they all drove Cadillacs,” Dearman remembered. “Willie and I walked out of the picket line and walked into the place. Willie was playing it really straight, just like he was really interested in buying a Cadillac, and the sales people were exceedingly helpful.”
These days, anyone trying to sell a car on Van Ness would be very happy for this kind of attention. Oh well.
Good-bye Auto Row.