Disbrowe Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd., formally known as Disbrowe Motors, has been serving automotive needs for customers in Elgin County since 1923. We would like to extend a sincere thanks to our past and present customers, employees and community for their tremendous loyalty and support over the past 100 great years!
The following is a brief look into our past to understand how our company has evolved and continues to grow and shape our electrifying future.
In 1923, George E. Disbrowe Sr. established an automotive business in St. Thomas, at that time there were thirteen auto dealers in St. Thomas.
Over the years, the Disbrowe family operated various automotive franchises out of the Talbot street location. Oakland (1923), Paige & Jewitt (1925), Graham Page Willys, Whippet and Durant (1928), Dodge & Desoto (1933-1959), and in 1959 a franchise from GM – Buick and Pontiac.
In 1946, Disbrowe incorporated to become Disbrowe Motors Ltd. and the oldest son H. Martin Disbrowe became manager of approximately 30 employees.
In 1954, after graduating from Western University, George E. Disbrowe Jr. joined the business and became partners with Martin. The two sons had controlling interest and management of the firm until Martin retired in 1985 and his son John and George Jr. jointly took over operation of the firm.
Carl Ansingh, after a 10-year career with General Motors of Canada Limited, was approved to start his first dealership in Aylmer in 1981. Along with his wife Valerie as Controller and children Karen and Christine, they opened Carriage Pontiac Buick GMC Ltd. Carriage was a new GM location which was opened in the middle of the recession and grew into a thriving business. Carl sold the Carriage Aylmer franchise in 1987 to Pryde Pontiac Buick GMC so that he could invest in another GM opportunity in St. Thomas.
In 1987, Carl Ansingh was approved by GM to take over a dealership in St. Thomas formerly known as Heath Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac and opened Carriage Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac in St. Thomas.
From 1987-1988, Disbrowe Motors expanded and built a new building and relocated on the corner of First and Edward Street by Hwy #3 by-pass. At the time, this location seemed far from the action of Talbot Street; however, today the location is the largest area of retail growth in the City of St. Thomas.
On March 30, 1988, Disbrowe Motors received a Chamber of Commerce Free Enterprise Award for their continuing contributions made to the civic & economic betterment of our community.
In 1991, George Disbrowe Jr. retired leaving John as sole Dealer Operator of Disbrowe Motors Ltd.
In 1993 during a downturn in the economy, GM approved a merger between Carriage Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac and Disbrowe Pontiac Buick GMC to become a partnership and a single franchise Disbrowe Pontiac Buick GMC Cadillac owned jointly by John Disbrowe and Carl Ansingh located at the corner of First and Edward.
In 1997, Carl Ansingh bought out John Disbrowe to become sole owner and operator of Disbrowe Pontiac Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd.
In 2000, Disbrowe expanded their service facility to add 6 service bays and an automatic car wash. Also this year, Disbrowe employee Bruce Barrett received a merit award from the Chamber of Commerce to acknowledge his 50 year career in vehicle sales.
In 2002, Carl’s daughter Karen Johnson joined the business as part of the sales management team and was approved by GM as Dealer successor in 2003.
In 2004, Karen Johnson became General Manager after graduating from the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) and continued to actively seek the Chevrolet franchise from GM and started to expand and renovate the dealership to meet GM’s new image standards.
Since joining Disbrowe, Karen continues to support GM as a dealer elected representative on various sales and service marketing boards in addition to supporting local community and charitable causes. Karen has also been an executive member of the Chamber of Commerce in various roles including Membership Committee Chair, Vice Chair, Chair and Past Chair.
In 2005, renovations were completed, and Disbrowe Pontiac Buick Cadillac introduced customers to a newly renovated state of the art facility for sales, service, parts and body shop. The dealership not only met the updated image standards from GM but it exceeded customer and employee expectations by renovating all areas of the facility. The renovation included adding new customer entrances, new showroom and offices on main floor and upstairs, new service, sales and body shop customer lounges, two new customer refreshment bars, new children’s service lounge play area and new outside display and parking areas with updated landscaping.
In 2006, Carl Ansingh was acknowledged by General Motors of Canada and received a 25-year Milestone Award for his hard work and dedication to the dealership and the community of St. Thomas.
Also in 2006, Paul Johnson, Karen’s husband joined the business to become part of the management team. Both Paul and Karen had management careers with General Motors of Canada Limited for 13 years prior to moving into the retail side of the business.
From 2004-2007 Karen along with her management team handled daily operations and she and Carl operated as joint Dealer Owners. In March of 2007 Karen was approved by GM as the Dealer Operator. In September 2014, Karen completed her buyout with Carl and became the sole Dealer Owner/Operator of the dealership with Paul Johnson as General Manager.
In the fall of 2009, General Motors restructured and determined that the St. Thomas dealership would be part of the new GM, offering all GM Brands in St. Thomas – Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.
In 2010, Disbrowe Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd. commenced another major renovation of the exterior and front of the dealership to ensure compliance with GM’s updated image requirements for an all-lines GM branding. The new front tower and re-facing of the exterior with new interior and exterior lighting gave Disbrowe an even stronger presence on the corner of First and Edward Street.
On March 1, 2015, Karen purchased the real estate of the dealership from Carl Ansingh to complete her long-term investment in the company and St. Thomas and renovated some of the interior of the facility and added some new equipment and office furniture.
In 2019, Disbrowe Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac received recognition by customers for Top Car Dealer in the MyFM Spirit Awards.
In March 2020, a global pandemic (COVID-19) caused a complete lock-down across the country but Disbrowe remained focused on dealing with these challenges positively to help customers. The service, parts and body shop departments were deemed an essential service and were allowed to remain open with COVID protocols. The sales department continued to help customers by learning new ways to serve clients which included virtual sales consultations, sales and deliveries by appointment and creating custom sold orders to address the supply constraints of the time.
In 2022-2023, Disbrowe Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd. has made another significant investment with the installation of 4 public and 6 dealership electric vehicle chargers, related electrical infrastructure and EV tools and training to support the sales and service of all General Motors EV models. GM has pledged a commitment to an all-electric and sustainable future. Disbrowe will continue to promote a greener future and will help lead our community through this next chapter of electrification.
In 2023, Paul Johnson the General Manager of Disbrowe Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd. was approved by GM as Dealer Successor.
In 2023, Disbrowe Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd. has a team of 50 employees and offers customers one stop shopping for all of your automotive needs - New Sales & Leasing, Certified Pre-owned Sales, Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Certified Service, Genuine GM Parts & Accessories, Body & Paint Collision Centre and Vehicle Detailing.
Throughout the years the Disbrowe, Ansingh, and Johnson families are proud to work along side an exceptional group of employees with ownership spanning three generations. Currently, Paul and Karen's daughter Taylor assists the dealership with marketing and their son Bradley is a sales consultant for the dealership.
Disbrowe Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd. is proud to offer all GM brands in St. Thomas - Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac and Corvette (granted franchise in 2022) and continually ranks as one of the top GM dealerships in Canada for customer satisfaction. It has been awarded the prestigious GM Triple Crown award 12 times in its history for excellence in sales, service and customer satisfaction.
Special thanks to acknowledge all of the Disbrowe employees, both past and present, who contributed to offering the “Disbrowe Difference” over the past 100 years to our many amazing and loyal customers. Thanks to our great employees, customers and our community we have many great stories and memories to share. Disbrowe looks forward to continued business growth and success and being St. Thomas proud for the next 100 years!