In June, 1958, a young man in his late 20s moved his wife, daughter and four-year-old son to Claremore, Oklahoma, where he opened a small business downtown. Five years later, positioned along the still intact and oft travelled Route 66, cars were selling fast, so Jack Kissee moved his Ford dealership onto a larger plot of land south of town, exactly where it sits today.
Jack’s son Steve graduated Claremore High School, working summers on the lot, and then OSU. He moved back to Claremore and worked for his father in 1976, and by 1980 he took over the company, with his father nearby to advise.
“We had a good relationship. We never really argued about business. We enjoyed working together while we did it,” Steve said of his father. “He started the company and earned great respect here. I tried to follow in those footsteps.”
The company and the Kissee family experienced a great loss when Jack passed away in 1991, but they soldiered on. Ten years later, they’d saved enough money to buy up adjacent properties and renovate, eventually building up the company to be what it is today.
“You grow with the town,” Steve said, describing the decades of change his family and company have undergone alongside the people and the city of Claremore.
This June, Jack Kissee Ford celebrates 60 years of business.
“A lot has changed since 1958, but the one thing I think hasn’t changed is relationships,” Steve said. “We pride ourselves on establishing relationships with customers.”
Steve said the reason Jack Kissee Ford has generations of repeat customers comes from how he trains his 46 employees to build trust with customers and the fact that he is on site, maintaining an open-door policy 5 days a week so customers know exactly who they’re dealing with.
“Claremore has been good to us,” Steve said. “We’ve got a lot of loyal customers that go down the generations.”
Despite the growth of and necessity for the internet in today’s business climate, Steve said the foundation of a good business is still trust. “It’s still a lot about relationships and people you trust to do business with, that’s what has made us successful in Claremore,” Steve said. “We wouldn’t have been able to stay here if we didn’t have the support of Claremore, and I appreciate that a lot.”
Steve mentioned a few ways the dealership has tried to give back to the community over the years, hosting “Drive for your Schools” test drives for Claremont, Verdigris and Sequoyah schools, funding three annual FFA scholarships, an endowed scholarship to Rogers State. Steve has also served on several boards in the city and county over the years.
For Steve and his wife Lisa, giving back and building Kissee Ford are two sides of the same coin, both motivated by the desire to create and maintain relationships with people. Especially with the people he works with Steve said.
“My office manager has been with me since 1981. My general manager has been with me since 1989. My service manager has been with me for 17 years,” Steve said. “It gives me pride that this is a place where people like to come to work.”
As part of Steve’s commitment to maintaining his relationship with Claremore, and as a sign of his appreciation for each and every customer, Jack Kissee Ford is throwing a party to celebrate 60 years with the people of Claremore.
In addition to a lot-wide sale for the whole month of June, special anniversary celebrations will occur June 28, 29 and 30, with free food and prize giveaways. Small prize giveaways include discounts on parts and services, free oil changes, free details, and $100 off on a new car. The main party will be Friday, June 29, from 4 to 7 p.m., when they’ll announce their largest giveaway of the festivities, $5,000 off a new or used car or a trip for two to Hawaii.
Anyone can register for the giveaway by stopping in to the store any time before the drawings. You don’t have to be present to win.