FORT KENT, Maine — The day may have been designed to celebrate the new ownership of Valley Motors, destroyed by fire one year ago, but the real star was the 1964 Corvette parked out front.
“I bought that car [here] brand new in 1964,” Ron Knight of Presque Isle said on Friday. “It was something I always wanted ever since I learned what a Corvette was.”
Knight drove up to Fort Kent with his wife of 44 years, Ann, to get a look at the General Motors dealership purchased last May by Steven Pelletier, owner of Pelletier Ford.
Pelletier bought the business — then operating as Valley Auto — from Carl Theriault, who owned the dealership when an early morning fire on Oct. 3, 2012, burned the buildings to the ground.
Despite the fire, and thanks to hundreds of community volunteers who rushed to the scene to help save inventory, files and office equipment from the blaze, the dealership was able to resume operations later that same day from a temporary location at the Fort Kent ski tow.
Since purchasing the business from Theriault, Pelletier has constructed a new dealership showroom and garage on the original site.
“We have just begun and still have a lot more to do,” Pelletier said. “We are blessed to have the opportunity and ability to have this event.”
The original Valley Motors was owned and operated by Jake Escovitz and later by his son Harry Escovitz, from whom Knight bought his beloved Corvette.
“I paid around $4,000, including tax, for that car,” Knight said. “In my high school yearbook I wrote that one of my dreams was owning a Corvette.”
Today, the car has 133,000 miles on the odometer, some of them from the honeymoon trip Ron and Ann took to Bar Harbor in 1969.
“Oh, he had that car before we got married,” Ann Knight said with a laugh. “If we had gotten married before, he probably would not have bought it.”
The couple was a bit taken aback by the attention their car received on Friday.
“We were just taking it for a drive,” Ron Knight said. “This is the longest drive we’ve taken with it this year.”
That car, Pelletier said, is part of the dealership’s history, one he honors with a special display in the waiting area.
Across from the service desk, photos and memorabilia spanning the last 90 years cover the walls. An original dealership cash register rests on the floor in front of one wall.
“There’s a lot of history connected with this business,” Pelletier said. “We really would like to preserve it.”
Pelletier hopes to add to the historical collection and said he would be interested in acquiring any piece of memorabilia or artifacts connected with the business anyone would be interested in parting with.
Among those checking out the display on Friday was Lew Morneault, a former Valley Auto salesman who worked there from 1950 to 1976.
“It’s really nice to see this business come back like this,” Morneault said. “It was a real shame when it burned — that was a pitiful day for this town.”
Since purchasing the dealership, Pelletier has added 10 employees and currently has around 50 people on staff.
The open house continues on Saturday.