Shiny new cars and salesmen eager to make a deal once lined the street on West Erwin between North Palace Avenue and North Bonner Avenue.
But as Tyler continued to grow, the dealerships that sold Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Ford left the street to claim their spot on Loop 323 where the Pontiac dealership had opened for greater visibility.
Nelson Clyde, Tyler Morning Telegraph publisher, said he remembers visiting the newspaper as a child and seeing all of the car dealers down the street, and then years later walking outside of the building for lunch and hearing the operators at the dealerships paging employees over the intercom.
“When I came to work here, Oge Oldsmobile and King Chevrolet were still down the street. This area was the place to go to buy a new car,” he said.
Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Operating Officer Henry Bell said he remembers having his vehicle serviced on West Erwin Street.
“You had Ford, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile all right in this one area, and in the mornings, you would see all of the cars lined up on Erwin (Street) as the owners waited to get them serviced,” he said.
Bell said Buick was housed in the building now housing the Discovery Science Place and Holley Motors, which sold Dodge vehicles, was in the building where Unclaimed Furniture is on North Broadway Avenue.
Both men said the traffic was greatly reduced when the dealerships all moved.
King Chevrolet was the last holdout downtown until they sold to Peltier, which moved to its current location.
Bell remembers a jingle to get people to shop downtown sometime in the 1980s, by mixing lyrics from Petula Clark’s song “Downtown” with lyrics to promote King Chevrolet.
“That was before Jack (King) began doing the commercials himself where he did his famous line, ‘Come see me in downtown Tyler,’” he said.
Bell said most of the property now is owned by the city of Tyler and was at one time going to be developed for a convention center, but it now remains unused.
“Yeah it is kind of different driving through that area, because there isn’t the hustle that used to happen down there,” he said.
Clyde said he welcomes the current revitalization in the downtown area.
“I do remember all of the car dealerships being down the street, but you can’t fight change. This area is poised for a renaissance,” he said.