Mark Hollenback and Dishman Dodge

Before NASCAR, there was The Nash Car and Mark Hollenback Rode it to the Winner’s Circle

   As the 12-year-old Mark Hollenback left the Nebraska family farm for Spokane with his parents and 5 siblings in 1925, he could not have imagined that the  company that made the 7-passenger touring car they rode in would be so important to his future career. Grasshoppers had decimated the struggling crops on the fragile prairie, and Mark’s dad, Fred, decided to join his brother who ran a piano-rental business here called Hollenback Piano Company.

   The Depression caused the bottom to drop out of that venture and Fred became a mechanic, and thus laid a path for Mark who went to work for Bronson Motors in Dishman in 1935. But apparently, Fred and his wife Jennie, had instilled in their children the qualities for success. For example, that same year Mark drove his brother Melvin and his wife and first child down to Washtucna where Melvin had gotten a job as a ranch foreman. They put all of Melvin’s family possessions into the baby crib lashed to the

rumble seat of Mark’s car. By the time Melvin retired he had amassed a 3,000 acre ranch that his sons still operate today.
   What Melvin did with agriculture, Mark did with automotive. Within a few years he had bought a service station on the corner of Trent and Argonne and soon began
selling used cars. Shortly before WWII, he went to Kenosha,Wisconsin and drove back a demonstrator model for his newly acquired Nash franchise.
   But Pearl Harbor blew Mark’s plans out of the water. Fearing he would be drafted and have to leave his young family to fend for themselves, Mark sold his inventory and went to work for the the Construction Corps on such projects as the building of the Kaiser plant in Trentwood. When the war was over and the coast was clear, Mark jumped back in and never looked back.
   He reacquired the Nash franchise and added a  Willey’s franchise and started Parkwater Motors at 5303 E. Trent. Before long,he set up another lot at the corner of Park and Sprague called Hollenback Motors. By 1960 he consolidated his operation to the Sprague location.
  This was all at a time that the American car industry was quickly changing. The big three corporations, Chrysler, Ford and GM, had become dominant, forcing smaller car companies to adapt or die. Nash and Hudson  joined forces to form American Motors which featured the country’s first compact car, the Rambler. By the late 60’s the Rambler was put to pasture and AMC developed several models like the Javelin, Gremlin and Pacer, and up until 1974 they continued to produce the definitive Nash, the Ambassador.
     Eventually, AMC was reduced to the Jeep line after Chrysler bought it in 1987, and one might think Mark Hollenback would have gone down with the ship. While he stayed on board  Nash/AMC to the end, Hollenback always had that quality for success his parents had instilled and he never put all his eggs in one basket. During his career he held franchises for Volkswagon, BMW, Renault, Peugeot and most importantly Dodge. Who would have guessed when he bought the franchise back in 1964 that Dodge would become the powerhouse it did in the 90’s.
   Today, The Mark Hollenback Dishman Dodge Showroom is the jewel of the Valley couplet with it’s modern design and gleaming Dodge Rams lined along the corridor’s Park Road intersection. The other major accomplishment Mark pulled off at the end of his career was to pressure his oldest daughter Marti to give up her nursing career and take over the reigns of his business.
    Marti, who had a lot of administrative experience in the medical field but cared no more about the auto industry than to be “happy to have a car to drive,” told me recently she reluctantly honored her father’s wishes as he approached the end of his life. To her surprise, she found it relatively easy to run the Dodge dealership.
   “Living up to Daddy’s legacy, that is the challenge,” she said, ” He liked people and people liked him. He had a lot of business acumen.”   
   Marti, who is involved in several civic organizations and is the Washington representative for NADA, is a living testimony to her father’s acumen and integrity. After a long  recent interview, she said to me, ” Don’t make your story about me, make it about Dad.”


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