Tuesday, 01 May 2018 23:09

Collision Center To Be Added to Kempthorn Motors in Canton, OH

Written by Edd Pritchard, The Canton Repository
The local American Red Cross chapter and former Seiple Lithograph once occupied the building that will become home to the new Kempthorn Collision Center in Canton, OH. The local American Red Cross chapter and former Seiple Lithograph once occupied the building that will become home to the new Kempthorn Collision Center in Canton, OH. CantonRep.com/Michael Balash


Kempthorn Motors might be 80 years old, but age hasn’t stalled its growth.

The dealership will be opening a new collision center at 2213 Cleveland Ave. NW. The building once was home to the local American Red Cross offices and the former Seiple Lithograph.

Kempthorn has been remodeling the building for several months after buying it last year. Plans initially called for a new building in the 1600 block of Cleveland Avenue NW. The dealership had cleared zoning and other issues with the project, but it continued to be bogged down. One day while driving to the dealership, Eric Kempthorn passed the building and decided to change course.

“It just made sense,” Kempthorn said of renovating the existing building.

Changes include a new entrance off Cleveland Avenue NW where vehicles can be dropped off for repair work. Three new paint booths, including one large enough to accommodate a semi tractor, have been installed in the repair bay. The building’s size provides space to allow the dealership to expand its body shop business, Kempthorn said.

With a larger collision center, Kempthorn plans to repair all brands, makes and models of vehicles. The state-of-the-art operation will help the dealership meet a wider variety of the requirements demanded by car insurance companies, he said. Bob Helm, who has more than 35 years of experience with the dealership, and Chuck King will direct the expanded operation.

The Kempthorn dealership started in 1938 when James O. Kempthorn, who had worked as a mechanic and sales manager at another dealership, started selling new Dodge and Plymouth cars at 811 Cleveland Ave. NW.

Dick Kempthorn started working at the dealership with his father during the 1940s while still a McKinley High School student. After graduating high school, Dick Kempthorn served with the Navy during World War II, was a football All-American while attending the University of Michigan and then served in the Air Force during the Korean War. In 1953, he returned to Canton and worked full-time at the dealership.

By then, James O. Kempthorn had moved up the street to the current location at 1449 Cleveland Ave. NW. Dick Kempthorn took the helm in 1965. His three children, James, Dana Kempthorn Parker and Eric, now direct the operation.

 The siblings are continuing the family legacy, Eric Kempthorn said. 

“We’re working with the foundation Dad built for us---taking care of people,” he said.

The dealership sells new Volkswagen, Mazda, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar vehicles, along with Sprinter commercial vans that are made by Mercedes. The whims of auto manufacturers have factored into changes in the brands sold by Kempthorn through the years. Restructuring by General Motors led to the closing of Kempthorn Buick in 2013, and changes at Chrysler ended the dealership’s ties with that car marker.

Nearly all of the Kempthorn operations were brought together at 1449 Cleveland Ave. NW in 2001. That site has grown since James O. Kempthorn relocated there in 1948. A new showroom was built in the 1980s and there were expansions in the 1990s.

Moving the collision center to the new building will open space in the Auto Mall, but no decision has been made on how the space will be used, Kempthorn said.

The dealership has about 80 employees, and Kempthorn credits efforts of the workforce for the business’s success.

“We’ve been fortunate with our employees,” he said, noting that many of the workers have had long careers with the dealership. “A key to our success has been the longevity and experience of an incredible group of employees.”

We thank The Canton Repository for reprint permission.