Morse Van Drunen was raised among farming families in South Holland in the early 1900s but he knew he didn’t want to be a farmer. He turned to cars.
Now his grandchildren — Marvin Van Drunen, Faye Van Drunen, Ruth Kuipers and Joan De Bok — and two great-grandchildren are in charge at Van Drunen Ford, 3233-183rd St. in Homewood, and are marking the 85th anniversary of Ford’s oldest Chicagoland dealership, and Homewood’s oldest business continuously operated by the same family.
In the 1920s, cars were the rage and Morse started selling Fords at a Harvey dealership, according to Marvin, one of the four co-owners of Van Drunen Ford.
Sales of the new 1928 Model As were strong, and Morse talked about a dealership. Despite the stock market crash in October 1929, car sales were “exploding all along the country,” Marvin said.
Morse stuck to his idea. The grand opening of the first Van Drunen Ford showroom at 18027-29 Dixie Highway was Sept. 20, 1930. It filled the former Homewood Motor Co. space, a short-lived Ford dealership.
It took perseverance and guts to keep going as the country’s Great Depression deepened in the 1930s. Records show Van Drunen Ford sold just 12 vehicles in 1932. During World War II, no new cars were produced, so Morse sold pre-owned vehicles and parts.
After the war, young families moved into Homewood’s Southgate and Governors Park subdivisions. Van Drunen Ford benefited from the post-war economy and needed more space. It bought a garage on 183rd Street and Dixie Highway selling used cars and tractors at that location, according to Homewood historian Jim Wright.
In 1950, an addition was added for a new showroom and service center and the entire Van Drunen operation moved three blocks to the busy corner location. By this time, Morse’s only child, John, was in the business.
In the 1950s and ‘60s Van Drunen Ford occupied three corners at the intersection: the showroom on the southeast corner, a former gas station on the northwest corner, and Van Drunen’s used car business on the northeast corner, Wright said.
Van Drunen body shop was at 18162 Harwood Ave., where Aurelio’s stands today.
In 1973, Van Drunen Ford bought property on 183rd Street just west of Kedzie to build its current showroom/body shop/parts and service center.
Over the past 85 years, Van Drunen Ford has sold every make and model Ford has made, including the Model A and the Edsel, the Ranch Wagon, Crown Victoria, Falcon, Galaxie, Mustang, Taurus, Thunderbird and today’s Fusion and Focus. It has a full line-up of trucks, vans and SUVs.
It’s the Van Drunen staff’s personal touch that has forged many long-time friendships, says Bruce Hemminger, the general manager.
“Absolutely. We have generations of sales. We have parents buy a car and then they bring their kids here when they’re ready for a car,” he said.
Van Drunen Ford also has been supportive of Homewood Little League, H-F Soccer Club and other local programs. The business just recently signed a platinum sponsor contract with Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s Viking Media for presentations during football games.
“They absolutely know what it takes to build and maintain loyalty among employees and customers, and we look forward to celebrating their successes for many years to come,” said Heidi Shaffer, Ford’s Chicago regional manager.