The history behind Chevy Chase Cars has all the hallmarks of a great American success story: a self-made immigrant spends his life savings to pursue his dream. Through hard work, determination and resilience, the young entrepreneur grows his company into one of the most successful dealerships in the country. Eighty years later, Chevy Chase Cars is the oldest retail business in Bethesda that has operated continuously in the same location.
Established in 1939 by Art Bowis in what was then the sleepy little town of Bethesda, Chevy Chase Cars is now run by Art’s grandson, John Bowis. “When my grandfather purchased this property, there wasn’t much out here except for a farm across the street,” says John. Shortly after Art opened his dealership, World War II began and General Motors stopped building new cars. Art kept his business afloat by traveling up and down the East Coast, buying used cars to sell and using spare parts to repair customers’ cars. By the time the war ended, he had built strong relationships and established a solid reputation in the community. “To this day, excellent service and customer satisfaction are the backbone of our dealership,” says John. In 1990, John took the reins from his father, Fred Bowis, who built their iconic five-story building and grew the company through smart business strategies and brilliant marketing.
As a family business with deep roots in the community, Chevy Chase Cars has raised funds for numerous local charities, including more than $1 million for The Children’s Inn at NIH. “Community and family are very important to us,” says John. “Over the years, we’ve had multiple people from about 30 different families work on our team. We have a dozen employees who’ve been with us for 20, 30, even 50 years. My grandfather would be proud.”
“To this day, excellent service and customer satisfaction are the backbone of our dealership.”