HOW THIS FAMILY OWNED CAR DEALERSHIP HAS SUPPLIED ITS KEYPORT NEIGHBORS WITH DEPENDABLE WHEELS FOR 72 YEARS AND COUNTING
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
At Straub Motors, a 72 year old GMC and Buick dealership in Keyport, the bloodline runs deep. Operations began after World War II in the late 1940s. Charles Straub Sr., whose family had lived in the Keyport area for nearly half a century, decided he wanted to bring a line of dependable American built automobiles to his community. In 1947, along with his son Charles Jr., he opened a dealership along New Jersey Highway 35. Three quarters of a century later, the family legacy continues, as a third generation of Straubs now sits at the wheel.
“My grandfather and father knew they wanted to open a business here because we’ve been Keyport residents since the early 1900s,” explained co-owner and Principal Remsen Straub, who now runs the business alongside his brother, Charles III. Their younger brother, Adrian, is also on board and works in the service department. For the trio, the decision about whether or not to enter the family trade was an easy one.
“We pretty much knew from the beginning,” Remsen Straub said with a laugh. “Since we grew up in the same town that the dealership was in, it was not uncommon for us to come home from school, then go here. We were thrilled to come and just hang out. By the time we were 14 or 15, it became a little less fun and games. Dad stuck a wrench in our hands and told us to get to work.”
For the first few years, the Straub Motors showroom displayed vehicles from a variety of auto manufacturers. In 1955, the owners decided to focus exclusively on one brand, and were able to secure a Buick franchise.
“They wanted a strong, dependable, recognized American name,” said Straub. “My dad and grandfather poured all of their effort into the Buick brand, and by the mid 1980s, they were one of the top dealers in the state. By the late 1980s, there was a dynamic shift in the U.S. automotive consumer market. Customers had a thirst for sport utility vehicles and trucks, and Charles III recognized that we needed an additional brand to offer. After talks with several manufacturers, he signed a deal with General Motors to be its local GMC dealer.”
Choosing the right brands, Straub explained, was a vital ingredient in the dealership’s recipe for success. Since its inception, the store has seen a sea of industry changes, sharp fluctuations in the economy, and the evolution of consumer needs. The original owners knew they needed to stick with brands that could weather the seasons.
“We are affected by ups and downs in the economy, fuel prices, and trends,” Straub continued. “But we have a brand that has always withstood. It’s never skyrocketed and then fallen out of vogue; it’s a go to nameplate.”
Offering a dependable product is only one part of the family success story. Straub explained that maintaining strong family values has remained a guiding principle through the years, a virtue his grandfather instilled when he opened the dealership seven decades ago. No matter the day of the week or time of day, both customers and employees can find a member of the family on site.
“With so many stores being corporate owned, I’d say we are in the lesser percentile that are completely family owned and operated. It’s a big thing for a customer to walk in the door and, if they have a concern, speak to someone from the family.”
The dealership’s inventory includes all new makes and models from both resident nameplates, in addition to a selection of pre-owned vehicles. A full service and parts department is also on site, offering everything from routine maintenance to major repairs. Besides cars and trucks, the dealership sells a line of low speed electric vehicles called the Polaris GEM. The store was among the first in the Northeast to carry the vehicle. The GEM has been a hit on college and corporate campuses, Straub said, as well as on the Jersey Shore. Buyers of all types, from major corporations to famous household names, visit the dealership to check out the zero emissions vehicles.
“It’s not extravagant…not an exotic sports car,” said Straub. “They are moderately priced, ranging from about $15,000 to $20,000. But some of the clientele I’ve met is astounding. I sold one to Ralph Lauren himself.”
It doesn’t take a celebrity customer to offer the co-owners satisfaction. Because the family lives, works, and is heavily involved in the community, they witness the fruits of their labor every day, from Main Street to the parking lot of their kids’ school.
“We have customers from all corners of the state,” said Straub. “But when we see them at the schools, church, and local businesses, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
The family is also involved in local charitable endeavors. One organization particularly close to Remsen Straub’s heart is the YMCA in Red Bank (its roots tracing back to 1874, when a modest facility was opened to serve young men), where he has served on the board for more than 15 years. Its now all inclusive family mission, he explained, is to provide aid to members of the Monmouth County community through transformative programs including therapeutic counseling, disease support, mentorship, wellness workshops, and financial assistance.
“The YMCA is so much more than a swim and a gym,” said Straub. “We have a very large social worker staff and numerous programs for children, teens, and adults that cover a wide range of issues. It’s been very important to me to be a part of it.”
400 NJ 35, Keyport / 732.264.4000