After nearly 50 years in the automotive business, Chuck Boyle is turning in his keys and slowly letting the next generation of Boyles take over.
The Bel Air resident, 66, who went to work for his father at Boyle Buick in Abingdon after he graduated from high school, retired in January.
Boyle said he won’t ever truly walk away – he’s still involved financially and strategically as chairman of the dealership’s board, but he won’t be involved in daily operations.
“I won’t let it go because of my financial interest, but I do need to let it go from the standpoint of letting them run it. I gotta get out of the way, in a positive way,” he said. “The industry has changed so much. It’s evolved, so high-tech, from traditional to digital. That’s the space the younger generation understands so much better than I do and they perform within that spectrum better than I do.”
Boyle’s younger brother, Chris Boyle, 57, is the new dealer and three of their six children are preparing the dealership for the future.
Chuck Boyle’s son, Blake, is the service manager, while his daughter, Paige, is handling the marketing. Chris Boyle’s son, Randy, is the sales manager.
“I’m excited, I’m very happy about that,” the elder Boyle said. “It’s truly a family affair, we really are. We all get along and it’s been fun working together.”
Boyle’s late father, Clarence Boyle, bought the dealership in 1968 from the Lee family, which had operated it in Perryman as Lee Buick.
Clarence Boyle was a dry cleaning salesman for Kroh’s Cleaners in Bel Air, his son said. After he completed his military service, Clarence Boyle drove dry cleaning all over the county, Boyle said.
“He met [owner] Joe Lee, who convinced him he’d make a good car salesman,” Boyle said.
Joe Lee’s sons, one of whom is Dan Lee, owner of MacGregror’s restaurant in Havre de Grace, had no interest in buying the dealership when their father retired, so he offered it to Clarence Boyle, who by that time had become in this words of his mentor, a better than good car salesmen. Clarence eventually moved the dealership to Route 924 in Abingdon in the 1970s.
Chuck Boyle graduated from the John Carroll School in 1969 then spent six months in the National Guard. He spent a year at Harford Community College after that, but dropped out the next year because his father needed help in the service department.
“I ended up the service manager overnight, on my own. That was 47 years ago,” Boyle said, adding he went back to HCC 30 years later to earn his associate’s degree. “When our dad retired, my brother and I bought the dealership.”
Working with his father was wonderful, he said.
“I had a great relationship with my father; he was my best friend as well,” Boyle said. “We kind of grew the business together. My father was a tremendous salesman, but he didn’t know anything about the service end.”
He left that to the son, who said: “I pride myself on making it a profit center rather than a hole in the ground losing money.”
Welcoming the third generation
Under Chuck Boyle’s leadership, Boyle Buick GMC received GM’s prestigious Dealer of the Year award in 2012, representing the top 2 percent of Buick dealers in the country, and was rated “Best in Class” for customer satisfaction and dealership business practices 11 times in 13 years. It has been the number one seller of new Buicks in Maryland since 1997 and is the only GM dealership in Maryland with six “World Class” rated service technicians, Boyle said.
The plan, Boyle said, is for his brother, Chris, to be the dealer for the next five to six years as the third generation slowly begins to take over from them.
“At that point, somebody has to take the helm. Either Randy or Paige,” he said.
Blake Boyle will be the service manager for the rest of his life, Boyle said of his son.
“He loves it, and he does it well,” the father said. “That’s a big plus for us.”
Chris Boyle, 57, began working at the dealership as a young boy, washing cars and sweeping the floors.
It wasn’t long before Chris started doing light mechanical work and spent his summers in high school learning the parts business. After graduating from John Carroll, he worked in the accounting office, learning the financial side of the business. He took over as director of service body and parts and turned it into an award-winning operation.
Chris Boyle is a graduate of the General Motors University of Automotive Management and is an ASE certified service consultant and manager.
"I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to lead a strong and growing business started by my father 50 years ago and continued over the past 24 years by my brother, Chuck," Chris Boyle said. "In addition, bringing aboard our family's third generation will help us continue to provide our customers with a top quality experience from sales to service every day."
Blake Boyle started his career at Boyle Buick GMC 20 years ago after graduating from the automotive service excellence program at Catonsville Community College. His knowledge and experience have made hundreds of customers "Boyle Loyal," one of the dealership’s key marketing slogans. He became service manager in 2014.
Before going to work for the family business once she started her own family, Paige Boyle worked for the Baltimore Ravens for 12 years in ticket sales then corporate sales.
“I always thought I would work for the family,” Paige Boyle, who has a degree in business administration from Towson University, said.
After college she started working for the Ravens and loved it, but when she got married and started having children thought she should “be back at home.”
“You give a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and I like the idea of doing it with my family and giving it back to my family and not in corporate America,” she said. “You’re working for the family business, working for the cause.”
She has loved working with her father.
“He became my number one mentor. He was my mentor in life, then in business, not only on the leadership side, but also a huge role model when it comes to community involvement,” Paige Boyle said.
Randy Boyle began working for the family’s business washing cars in high school. He graduated with a degree in business management from Salisbury University, where he played as an All-American shortstop on a championship baseball team. He returned to the dealership at age 24 to sell his first car. Over the years, Randy has served in almost every department at the dealership.
The changes in leadership at Boyle are going well, Chuck Boyle said.
“They do a very good job. And I need to make sure they do a good job so they can afford my retirement,” Boyle joked. “I’m going to try to enjoy myself and let these guys run with the ball.”
The car sellingbusiness has changed drastically in recent years, he said. Five years ago, car buyers would visit 4.7 dealerships before they bought a car. Today, they only visit on average 1.2 to 1.3 dealerships because they do all their shopping online.
“They know exactly what they’re coming in for when they do come in. It’s kind of crazy,” Chuck Boyle said. “I’m not saying I can’t adapt, I could if I really wanted to. But 47 years working bell to bell, the ups and downs, extremely high interest rates, a recession that was challenging. Hard work pays off if you stick to it.”
The younger generation of Boyles is looking forward to the future, Paige Boyle said.
“I think our goal is to continue to grow and build the business on the same core values we’ve always had, but also to be ready and at the forefront of all these changes that are coming,” she said. “The traditional way of buying cars has gone by the wayside. We want to be ready and have the dealership prepared for all the changes that are coming. And they are coming.”
Being active in the community has been important to Chuck Boyle, as it was to his father and is to his siblings and children. He believes in keeping business as local as possible and being involved locally was a way to promote that.
Boyle is one of the founders and a past president of the Harford County Chamber of Commerce. He worked with people like the late Charlie Spaulding, Tim Smith and the late John O’Neill.
“I really had a love for that, I was very much involved in that,” he said, explaining the chamber’s importance in promoting the local businesses.
“It promoted networking among different business owners. Whatever you can do locally is a whole lot better – it helps against the Amazons of the world,” Boyle said. “We used to preach about dealing with someone in your own community, and it’s proved well over the years.”
He’s been involved in dozens of organizations over the years, including the Bel Air New Car Dealers Association, M&T Bank, the Army Alliance, Harford County Chamber of Commerce, Route 40 Business Association, The ARC of Harford County, the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Harford County Economic Development Advisory Board.
Most recently, Chuck Boyle was appointed to the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation’s Board of Directors. Boyle Buick GMC supports dozens of non-profits in the community including Harford Family House, SARC, Bel Air Community Foundation, the Library Foundation, Anna’s House, Harford United Charities, countless PTA’s, churches and several youth recreation league teams.
He is a past president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, Baltimore Buick Dealers Ad Association, Buick Atlantic Zone Dealer Council and Harford County Citizens Advisory Council on Career and Technical Education.
Boyle was on the Harford Community College Foundation board for 21 years, from 1993 to 2014.
“I really felt strongly about it,” he said. “I still think [Harford Community College] is one of the biggest gems in our county.”
In 2015, Boyle was honored with the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his professional achievements as well as his lifelong commitment to the community and to the college.
The award was established to "honor the achievements of a former student who has attained outstanding success in their chosen profession, demonstrated a commitment to the community and maintained an interest in and service to Harford Community College."
Among the community awards Boyle has been given are the Boy Scouts of America Good Scout" Award, the Edgewood Community Service Award, the Paul Harris Rotary Fellowship Award, Employer of the Year twice by the Susquehanna Regional Association of Retarded Citizens and the Harford County Chamber of Commerce member of the year twice.
‘A good guy’
Michael Blum worked with Chuck Boyle, and his father for many years through the Bel Air New Car Dealers Association.
“In any business, you have good guys and bad guys. Chuck Boyle was a good guy,” Blum, who has a marketing and advertising firm in Bel Air, said. “He was absolutely, completely honest and totally forthright. You knew exactly what he believed on every topic and he was a man of his word.”
While he fought to promote local businesses and gain benefits for local car dealers, Boyle also was charitable, donating money and raising money for numerous local groups, including SARC, Harford Family House, the Humane Society of Harford County, the Harford Community Action Agency, among others, Blum said.
He was also active politically, supporting politicians in both parties “who believed what he believed, that a family owned business needed to be supported and needed to be helped.”
“There can’t be many family businesses like that. A major car dealer and Chuck Boyle was a bigwig in the Maryland scene and was a total family business man,” Blum said. “I regard him as a close business friend and I respect him very highly in every possible way.”
Boyle has retired from many business and community organizations, remaining on only on the Harford Mutual Insurance and the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation boards.
“I did my community service early on, on purpose,” he said. “I did all that with the purpose that now that I’m retired, I’m retired.”
Boyle and his wife, Pat, have been married for 45 years. They have three children – Molly, 41, Paige, 39, and Blake, 35.
Boyle said his favorite job in retirement, when he’s in town, will be being a grandfather to his eight grandchildren – four boys and four girls who range in ages from 14 to 5.
“I love to go to as many of their activities I can, to get involved in any way I can,” he said.
Perhaps he’s grooming the fourth generation of Boyle Buick owners.
Paige and her husband, Ryan, of almost nine years, have three kids – Mason, 9, Avery, 8, and Payton, 5.
Blake and his wife, Jessica, have two kids, Connor, 14, and Isabelle, 11.
His nephew, Randy, the sales manager, and his wife, Christina, are expecting their first child.
For now, Boyle is spending the winter in Vero Beach, Fla., where he and his wife bought a condo a few years ago.
“It’s fabulous. Everything is great. It’s a different world,” Boyle said. “I’ve never been in a position where I get up and I don’t have anything to do, I can get up and do whatever I want to do. It’s cool.”
He also expects to play a lot more golf.
A member of Maryland Golf and Country Clubs, Boyle was on the golf team during his one year at HCC. That team qualified for the national JUCO championships.
“I’m trying to get back to playing again,” he said.