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Third generation business in Houston

The Sullivan brothers are now the third generation of owners of SMP
The old Sullivan Pontiac Buick building before it was renamed SMP. (Submitted photo/Houston Today)

Houston and area residents should not be surprised if they spot the SMP logo on GM vehicle driving throughout the northwest.

SMP stands for Sullivan Motor Products and the geographic spread of the Houston-based dealership selling a full line of GMC, Buick and Chevrolet products speaks to its success.

It’s the result of customer service and a business focused on relationships carefully established and maintained stretching back to its founding in 1973.

And 50 years on, dealership principals and brothers John and Murray Sullivan, now third generation owners, don’t see that changing anytime soon.

“Even in 2008 we kind of held our own just because we have a really big, a vast customer base,” said Murray Sullivan in adding that the dealership client base extends into Alberta and down south as far as the Okanagan.

“It keeps us viable in tougher times,” he said.

John Sullivan echoes the dealership theme of customer service, adding that its generational.

“Two or three generations or more,” said John. “People come here they know who will be here, whether it’s sales or service. We have a very low staff turnover. People like coming here because of that.”

The generational aspect to the dealership extends to its beginnings.

It begins with Charles Sullivan who came to Houston from Saskatchewan in 1949 to go horse-logging at a time when the woods industry began to expand.

They soon branched out to open a tire shop and gas station and then began selling used cars.

The opportunity to open a full-fledged dealership arose in the early 1970s when Glacier Pontiac in Smithers went out of business.

“General Motors wanted a second dealership in the [Bulkley] Valley and so they got a GM franchise,” said John.

That the invitation came from General Motors fit naturally with the family’s already-existing preference for GM products.

The family didn’t have to go far to secure a location either for it was immediately adjacent to a ranching property it owned.

Both brothers forecast a stable future based on customer sales but both also point to the growing adaptability of the automotive industry when it comes to the growing number of electric vehicles being sold.

It may be a while before zero emission models find their way into the heavy duty vehicle market but John, for instance, sees customers moving toward compact passenger styles for shorter commutes within built up areas.

From an initial 12 employees, the staff total now verges on 70 and that includes the addition of a recreational vehicle component.

In fact, a view from the air shows the extensive inventory of RVs immediately beside Hwy. 16.

It’s also one of two RV sales and service locations as SMP has expanded that part of the business into Prince George.