Wetmore’s celebrates its rich history
Since the 1920s, the Wetmore family has prided itself on customer service.
In modern times, it has been recognized multiple times for its service and was acknowledged for it in national publications.
It has drawn business from individuals of all economic means. Top automobile industry leaders have even praised Wetmore’s on Route 7 in New Milford (see feature story, this page), according to Scott Brittingham Sr., immediate past president of Wetmore’s.
He said the late Lido “Lee” Iacocca, an automobile executive who presided over the operations of two of three main automakers at different times, once placed a direct call to the dealership.
“You have best service record in all of New England,” Scott Sr. said Iacocca gave as his reason for calling, having read about the business’ service in a publication.
The business’ roots date back to the 1920s when Frank Wetmore — great-grandfather of Scott Brittingham Jr., present president and general manager of Wetmore’s — opened Wetmore’s Garage.
The garage sold new and used cars, including Willy’s cars, and boats. It also offered vehicle servicing and sold fuel.
At age 19, Donald Wetmore, took over the business when his father, Frank, died.
“He was known as having the cleanest shop anywhere and his service was second to none,” said Scott Jr.
It was under Donald’s leadership — along with his wife, Jacqueline — the business expanded and became a dealership in 1963, when the business purchased C&R Rambler in town.
The introduction of American Motors Corporation’s vehicles — including eventually Jeep, after AMC purchased Kaiser’s Jeep utility vehicle operations in 1970 — meant Wetmore’s could offer a larger inventory to its customers.
The addition of more vehicles naturally led to an expansion of its service department.
While Donald and Jacqueline operated Wetmore’s, their son, Scott Brittingham Sr. and his wife, Ginny, established ties in the family business.
Scott began working in the body shop in November of 1970 and his wife, Ginny, working out of the family home, helped her mother with the books.
“Ginny would load up the kids and work with her mother,” Scott Sr. said. “They’d work in the playroom of the house. It was a challenge.”
Not a lot of cars were sold during the 1970s-80s. Six or seven Jeeps and a dozen AMC cars were kept in stock, Scott Sr. said.
However, by the later 1980s, Wetmore’s was growing too big for its space. An addition was constructed, offices were moved to a second floor, the parts room and the parts department was enlarged.
Around 1990, Donald and Jacqueline stepped away from the business and Scott Sr. and Ginny took over.
It was around this time, Scott Sr. said, the “Jeep business exploded when they came out with the Grand Cherokee.”
“Jeep was the first SUV vehicle to come out with an airbag. And in 1995, they added passenger airbags, so between 1993 and 1997, people flooded (dealerships) to buy a Grand Cherokee because at the time they were the safest SUVs on the market,” Scott Sr. related.
Scott Sr. said the business sold 20 to 25 Grand Cherokees a week, so inventory was high.
Violinist Isaac Stern, pianist, conductor and composer Skitch Henderson and his wife Ruth, actress Meryl Streep and former United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and founder and chairman of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University Joseph Califano Jr. are among the clients who patronized the dealership in the 1980s-90s, according to Scott Sr.
“Once you sell one to (a customer of that caliber) and they’re treated right, they tell all their friends,” Scott Sr. said.
From 2008-10, when other dealerships in town closed their doors during the auto industry crisis, Wetmore’s remained open.
They even acquired Dodge and Ram, and later Chrysler, when Valley Dodge and then Southworth’s, respectively, closed.
Scott Jr. came aboard in 2006 and became general manager two years later.
He assumed the role of president when his parents retired in 2018.