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FALLS FORD A handshake and a fair shake



Published: Sun, July 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The dealership owner's wife and children helped him rebuild the business after it was devastated in a 1985 tornado.

By CYNTHIA VINARSKY

VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER

NEWTON FALLS -- Some car dealers are sticklers about contracts and commitment deposits. Not George Bumbu.

The veteran Newton Falls Ford dealer says a handshake is enough for him, and he's been doing business that way for 50 years.

"We're out in the country here, the people are the salt of the earth," he said. "If somebody orders a car, we bring it in and let them check it over. We don't pressure people here."

At 67, Bumbu is celebrating his 50th anniversary as an automobile salesman and the 38th anniversary of his Falls Ford dealership on North Canal Street in downtown Newton Falls.

Repeat customers

He and his sales staff are selling cars to the third and fourth generations now, and Bumbu said he's not surprised to see customers come from Cleveland, Pittsburgh or New York state to buy a Ford from him.

"If you treat people fairly and honestly, they'll be back, and they're willing to make the drive."

The dealership's biggest sellers are pickup trucks and luxury cars. Bumbu also specializes in locating special-order, gently used luxury vehicles for his customers at Ford-sponsored auctions.

He tries to remember every customer's name. Failing that, he joked, he's even more likely to remember the color and model of vehicle they last bought from him.

A Warren native and the son of Romanian immigrants, Bumbu sold his first car at the age of 17 after landing a summer job at the former Cameron Bill's Ford in Warren.

The car was a brand new light green 1952 Ford, and the veteran salesman still remembers the elation he felt with that first sale.

"I love to talk to people, and I love to help people. This job lets me do both," he said. "That's why I'm still working six days a week."

Found his calling

Bumbu graduated from Warren Harding High School and attended three years of college with plans to become an attorney, working as a car salesman all the while. Finally he decided he'd already found his career niche and shelved his law school plans.

In 1965, at age 30, he bought into a partnership with Edward Vermillion in the dealership then known as Vermillion Ford in Newton Falls. In 1979 he bought his partner out and changed the name to Falls Ford.

Three of Bumbu's four children are involved in the auto business, and his wife, Jennie, also works at the dealership.

Their daughter Jennifer is business manager, daughter Jill is general manager and vice president, and their son Gregory owns a Ford dealership in Solon near Cleveland. A third daughter, Jeannine, has a career in North Carolina.

Tornado devastation

The three Bumbu children joined their father in business in 1985 after the dealership was destroyed by a massive tornado that caused extensive damage in Newton Falls and other parts of Trumbull County.

The jovial car salesman turns pensive remembering the devastation and how narrowly he missed being inside the dealership when it was hit. He had a late appointment to meet a customer at the business that evening, but the meeting had ended and he was on his way home when the storm came.

"The cars were stacked up like dominoes. That tornado blew us off the face of the earth," he said.

Bumbu said he might have given up, but his wife and children encouraged him to rebuild.

The family hit another rough spot three years ago when Bumbu collapsed in church, eventually landing in the Cleveland Clinic with a heart ailment.

"The doctors put in a pacemaker, and I sold cars to both of them," he said with a grin. "They said all I ever talked about in the hospital was selling cars."

Community-minded

Bumbu said the family business works to maintain a close relationship with the community. He's been active in civic groups, including two terms as president of the Newton Falls Chamber of Commerce, and he asks his wife to patronize as many of the dealership's business customers as possible.

"It's tough," he quipped. "She's got to run around to four or five grocery stores and five or six dry cleaners. But we think it's important. We've got to support the people who do business with us."

vinarsky@vindy.com




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