by KYLE MCDONALD
Kent -- Forty years have passed since Albert Klaben founded Klaben Automotive Group at Chapel Hill Dodge in Akron. As the Kent-based car dealer marks the milestone, President Rich Klaben said the celebration is dedicated to the people who made it possible.
"The 40th anniversary is really a tribute to my father for starting it all and truly a tribute to the employees for sustaining it," he said.
After spending 10 years in the car businesses in Syracuse, N.Y., Albert helped Chrysler open a new store at Chapel Hill Mall in 1972 and took it over in 1973.
In 1980, Albert moved to Route 59 in Kent, motivated by economics during a tumultuous recession.
"It was a recessionary climate with out of control inflation. Sales were down, manufacturers were losing stores by the day," said Rich, who began washing cars at the Chapel Hill site. "The cost of opening the door was costing so much that it was a no win situation."
The move to Kent allowed Klaben to keep the overhead down, the store open and employees working.
Rich said the move put his father in debt, but family, employees, customers and giving back to the community -- not money -- were most important to Albert.
Rich and his brothers Albert Jr. and Mike all continue the hard work ethic as well.
Albert purchased, and the group now operates multiple dealerships and businesses along the Kent auto strip, plus a Warren bureau.