John Bowis on the future of the auto industry ~
“Our industry is under assault, it’s going to change, but my job is not to fight that change, my job is to figure out a path forward-and embrace it.”
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, and this is Our Town. As a special guest on Our Town, the man whose family epitomizes Our Town. In 1939, the Bowis family started Chevy Chase Cars. I don’t know what it was
called then, but-
John Bowis: Chevy Chase Motor Company.
Andy Ockershausen: … John Bowis is now the surviving member of the Bowis family. He’s a father of five, and they’re all gonna be running the business someday.
John Bowis: Maybe.
Andy Ockershausen: John, welcome to Our Town.
John Bowis: Thank you, Andy.
Andy Ockershausen: You know, we have such a relationship with your family before you were born of course, with your grandfather, Art, and Jim Gibbons, who was my guru-
John Bowis: Right, good friends.
Andy Ockershausen: … and he led me in this business, my mentor, and we started together. So, the name Bowis always meant a lot, but I didn’t know about the automobile business, because I thought they were in the real estate business.
John Bowis: Right.
Andy Ockershausen: Were they not?
Automobile Business is Foundation for Art Bowis Legacy
John Bowis: The automobile business is what allowed my grandfather to invest in real estate, so real estate was his second job, but the automobile business is what brought him to the table.
Andy Ockershausen: But, when you opened, Bethesda, it was not like Bethesda now.
John Bowis: Not at all, not at all.
Andy Ockershausen: In 1939, I’ve seen pictures.
John Bowis: 1939. So, in 1939, my grandfather was working at a Chevy store downtown in D.C. Most of the automobile dealerships-
Andy Ockershausen: Was in downtown Washington-
First Came NIH and the National Navy Medical Center
John Bowis: … they were called agencies back then, were located in D.C. There were very few dealerships in the suburbs, but my grandfather wanted to work for himself, and he was in sales, and there was another friend of his, Bob Suddith, Sr., they decided to partner together and go open up a Chevrolet store some place. They could have gone in any direction outside of the city, and my grandfather realized, or noticed, that the government opened up two locations in Bethesda just the year prior.
One was NIH, National Institutes of Health. The US government bought the-
Andy Ockershausen: Golf course, right?
John Bowis: … bought the golf course. And also the Wilson farm. It was the Wilson farm, Wilson Lane. Dr. Wilson. It was a long-time Bethesda family. The federal government bought the Wilson farm. They bought the Woodmont Golf Course. And then across the street, they opened up … they broke ground on the National Navy Medical Center, which is now Walter Reed.
My grandfather decided to go out to Bethesda and scope out property, and he landed on this property right next to the old Bethesda The