Haron Motor Sales

NEW 10/2022

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Fresno Bee, Feb 2008

CHARLES HARON

HARON MOTOR SALES

 

A man named Garabed Haroothian, who later changed his name to Charles Haron, operated a foreign car dealership in Fresno, California. He started offering new cars in 1956, but he had been in the automotive field since the 1930’s. Haron Motor Sales is still in operation, still under the leadership of the Haron family. 

 

Haron Motor Sales offered Citroëns for a long time, over a dozen years, making them one of the rare dealers in the USA that actually stuck with Citroën for the long haul; nearly the entire time Citroën was officially in the USA!

 

GARABED HAROOTHIAN

 

An obituary and several old newspaper articles about Garabed Haroothian provide a good framework and allows us to build a more detailed history of his life and business. 

 

Garabed Haroothian was born 1916 in Reedley, California to Armenian parents Kachadoor and Yaksa Haroothian. He grew up in nearby Fresno, California, the same city his business still operates from.

 

We found that during the Depression, he was a mechanic working for other people, and then in 1937, he opened his own business in Reedley called, Chuck's Auto Service and Maintenance

 

Garabed Haroothian changed his name, presumably to make it a bit easier for the average American to remember and/or pronounce it. Quite early in his life, he started going by Charles (or Chuck) instead of Garabed. A bit later on, he had changed both first and last names and was going by Charles Haron. 

In 1939 he married a woman named Queenie Hagopian, another Armenian-American. They remained married until the late 1960’s, when he divorced and remarried a woman named Ruth.

 

It has been written that he served as a civilian during the World War II years performing airplane maintenance at Hammer Field, a nearby military base. Once the war was over, he went back to the automotive world. 

 

HARON’S AUTO SERVICE / HARON MOTOR SALES

 

After the war, he opened a business called Haron's Auto Service in Fresno at 2222 Ventura Street. We believe this occurred in 1946. It was a three-bay shop where he did car repair, tune-ups and engine maintenance. 

 

By 1948, he was selling used cars in addition to performing maintenance.  Once he became more invested in selling used cars, the business name changed to Haron Motor Sales.

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Fresno Bee, Aug 1949

HARON MOTOR SALES BENDS OVER BACKWARDS TO SATISFY CUSTOMERS!

BRITISH FORD AND TRIUMPH

 

Charles Haron soldiered on selling used cars and performing automotive maintenance until 1956, when he first became a dealership for new car sales. What cars did he chose to represent? He chose British Fords, which were quite popular in the US in the 1950’s.

Shortly after he started selling English Fords, he added Triumphs, initially with the TR3 model.

HARON BECOMES A DEALER FOR ENGLISH FORDS

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Fresno Bee, April 1956

A NEW BUILDING

 

Things moved fast for Charles Haron in the late 1950’s. By 1958 he had started construction of a new showroom at his existing location in Fresno. The building was ready and opened to customers in January of 1959. Per the article (below), he now had 15 employees. His empire was growing!

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Fresno Bee, Jan 1959

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Fresno Bee, Jan 1959

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Fresno Bee, Jan 1959

HARON MOTOR SALES’ NEW LOCATION, OPENING IN EARLY 1959

By the early 1960’s, he was offering a few other cars such as NSU, Goggomobil, Daimler, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Lotus, and Panhard. We read that in this era he was representing up to 14 different marques simultaneously. But most of these didn’t work out and disappeared quickly from Charles Haron’s business. English Fords and Triumphs remained his mainstay in this era. 

CITROEN

 

The first Citroën dealer in Fresno was not Haron Motor Sales. The first was a business called Central California Citroën Sales, operated by a man named Ray M. Snow. Ray Snow’s business started in March of 1957 and was located at 1461 Broadway. He offered Citroën and Panhard and had grand plans to open several other Citroën dealerships in other parts of California. But as you can probably guess, this business failed very quickly. 

By the time Haron’s new showroom had opened in January of 1959, his offerings had expanded to include Citroën! It looks like he took on Citroën very soon after Ray M. Snow’s attempt had failed, most likely in mid-1958. 

FRESNO’S FIRST CITROEN DEALER - CITROEN SALES COMPANY OF CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

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Fresno Bee, Mar 1957

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Fresno Bee, May 1957

In California in the late 1950’s, there were many dealerships that tried to sell Citroëns. But most of them quietly gave up after a year or two of miserable sales, unreliable cars, sparse factory support, and inconsistent spare part supplies. Surprisingly, Haron Motor Sales stuck with Citroën for more than a dozen years. In fact, they were listed in the Citroën dealer directories until the very end, when Citroën stopped selling cars in North America in 1973. 

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Daily Independent Journal, Nov 1960

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Frankly, the owners of dealerships in the US that stuck with Citroën must have done it out of love for the car, since it was unlikely a good business venture. Haron Motor Sales is not widely thought of as one of the important Citroën dealerships in the USA, but it is one of the very few that stuck it out for pretty much the entire time Citroën was in the US market. That says something!

 

Citroën USA expert Richard Bonfond came up with a great photo of Charles Haron at a Citroën dealers meeting at the Los Angeles parts warehouse in 1959. Charles Haron is in the foreground. The tall slender man behind Haron in the light colored suit is Dick Feder from Executive Motors

CHARLES HARON IN THE FOREGROUND, PHOTO FROM 1959

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Bonfond family archives

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Bonfond family archives

CHARLES HARON HANDING THE KEYS OF A NEW DS TO A CUSTOMER -

PHOTO FROM ABOUT 1960

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Bonfond family archives

HARON SERVICE DEPARTMENT, PHOTO PROBABLY FROM ABOUT 1960

FIAT

 

In 1960 he added Fiat to his line-up of cars. Initially, Charles Haron worked with the famous car importer Max Hofmann to get his Fiats. Later on in the mid-1960’s, a company called Fiat-Roosevelt Motors was the importer (it turns out that president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son had formed this business). Later still, in the late 1970’s, importation was taken over by a company that was set up by Fiat themselves; Fiat Motors of North America. 

 

Charles Haron stuck with Fiat throughout all these behind-the-scene changes. In fact, he was still selling new Fiats into the early 1980’s, until Fiat pulled out of North America in 1983. 

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Fresno Bee, April 1960

HARON ADDS FIAT

SIMCA

 

There was an oh-so-brief period in the mid-1960’s when it looked like French Simca cars might make an impact in the USA, and Charles Haron was there to try to sell them. But as we all know, Simcas failed miserably in the US. Haron Motor Sales had near zero advertising for Simcas, but we did find this ad that showed Haron as an authorized dealer. 

1966 SIMCA ADVERTISEMENT THAT LISTED HARON MOTOR SALES AS AN AUTHORIZED DEALER

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Oakland Tribune, July 1966

RENAULT AND PEUGEOT

 

Charles Haron took on these two French marques in the early 1960’s. We found advertisements for Renaults at Haron Motor Sales as early as 1962, and for Peugeot as early as 1964. 

 

But both of these marques seemed to fade into the background at Haron’s pretty quickly. It is not clear when he formally dropped them, but it is clear that they were not making a big impact for Charles Haron.

WEIRD DAUPHINE AD FROM HARON MOTOR SALES

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Fresno Bee, Jul 1962

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Bonfond family archives

HARON LOT SIGN, PHOTO PROBABLY EARLY 1970’s

FORD CORTINAS

 

The mid-1960’s offered a brief bright spot for English Fords, a marque whose cars had become pretty stale by the early 1960’s. Note that Charles Haron had represented English Fords for almost 10 years by this point. What was this bright spot? It was the Ford Cortina, which enjoyed a bit of popularity, including with the track racing crowd. 

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Fresno Bee, Mar 1965

HARON DODGE CITY

 

In May of 1964, Charles Haron tried adding a domestic make. He bought a Dodge dealer that had been operating under the name, Brown and Hill Dodge in Madera California, a city about 25 miles northwest of Fresno. He named it, Haron Dodge City. The business was located at the intersection of 6th and “C” street in Madera. 

For some reason, the Dodge dealership did not work out for Charles Haron. In November of 1968, after only 4 1/2 years, he sold the Dodge business off.

HARON BUYS A DODGE DEALER AND THEN SELLS IT

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Madera Tribune, Nov 1968

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Madera Tribune, May 1964

BRITISH LEYLAND AND JAGUAR

 

In 1968, several British marques were absorbed into a new company called British Leyland. With all of these marques under one umbrella, Charles Haron took the opportunity to sell several Leyland marques, such as Jaguar, Rover, Land Rover, and MG. These were in addition to Triumph, a car he had been offering, uninterrupted, since the 1950’s. 

 

This turns out to have been a savvy move, since it probably allowed the Haron automotive empire to survive to this day, largely due to Jaguar. 

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Fresno Bee, Sep 1974

HARON ADDS OTHER BRITISH LEYLAND MARQUES

THE CITROEN SM

 

In 1971 when Citroën brought the SM model to the US, Haron Motor Sales was selected by Citroën management to offer the SM. As we have noted in many of these Citroën dealership histories, Citroën top brass was very selective about which of their existing dealerships were allowed to offer the SM. Apparently, they only wanted the more professional dealers, and Haron Motor Sales had what they wanted. 

 

Charles Haron was never a prolific advertiser like Clifford T. Nutt or Frank Millard, so there are precious few advertisements for DS’s and SM’s. However, we found one or two ads that Haron ran for the SM model. 

Did Haron Motor Sales sell very many SM’s? We have no idea. But we do know that there are a few surviving SM’s that were originally sold by Haron, including this SM that was for sale on Hemmings a handful of years ago. 

HARON SOLD AT LEAST ONE SM!

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Fresno Bee, Dec 1973

HARON ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE SM

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Hemmings.com

THE 1980’s BRINGS A SHIFT OF FOCUS FOR HARON

 

By the early 1980’s, most of the marques he had been offering over the last two or three decades had pulled out of the USA completely or, if still in the US market, were faltering. These included Alfa Romeo, Citroën, Daimler, English Ford, Fiat, Goggomobil, Lancia, Land Rover, Lotus, MG, NSU, Panhard, Peugeot, Renault, Rover, and probably a few others that we missed.

 

So, by 1981 or 1982, he had dropped everything else and focused exclusively on Jaguar. Later on, in the early 1990’s, Land Rover came back to the dealership. More recently in 2019, Volvo was added. 

In 2017, Charles Haron's original building that he built in 1959 was torn down to build a new, larger facility on the same property. 

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Freson Bee, Mar 1988

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Fresno Business Journal, June 2017. 

CURRENT HARON FAMILY MEMBERS (HILARY, JIM, AND RANDY) STANDING IN FRONT OF CHARLES HARON'S 1959 BUILDING AS IT IS BEING TORN DOWN

HARON THE BARON

 

Charles Haron, known in Fresno as “Haron the Baron,” passed away on February 20, 1988 at the age of 71. 

 

After Charles passed away, his family stepped in to run the business. Initially it was his son James Haron, but more recently, James, Randy Haron (Charles’ grandson) and Hilary (James’ daughter) are jointly running the business. (See above photo). 

 

It is very rare for a dealership to be in business this long, and it is especially rare for it to be still family-operated. They attribute their longevity to Charles and Queenie’s initial good business sense, a family ethic, and above all, good customer service. 

LOCATIONS

 

Reedley, CA (1937-WWII years)

 

Chuck's Auto Service and Maintenance was Charles Haron’s original business in Reedley, California. Several sources mentioned this business, but we couldn’t find it identified in the Reedley City Directories of the era, nor could we find any advertising for it. As such, we were unable to find an address. 

 

Madera, CA (1964-1968)

 

Haron Dodge City was located at the intersection of 6th and “C” street in Madera (we are not sure which corner of this intersection).  

 

2222 Ventura Street, Fresno, CA (~1946-current)

 

Charles Haron chose this location for his Fresno location in 1945 or perhaps 1946. When he started selling used cars in the late 1940’s, he changed the business name from Haron's Auto Service to Haron Motor Sales

 

He is said to have started with a 3-stall corrugated metal building on this site for his auto repair business. But after a dozen years repairing cars and selling used cars (plus his WWII years at Hammer Field), he opened a new building in 1959 that provided him a proper showroom for his new car sales. 

 

Haron Motor Sales operated out of this same building (albeit with some interim facelifts) until 2017 when it was torn down and replaced with a brand-new facility. 

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2222 VENTURA STREET IN 1959

Freson Bee, January 1959

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SAME BUILDING WITH A FEW FACELIFTS IN 2016

Google Street View, 2016

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NEW BUILDING AS SEEN IN 2022

Google Street View, 2022

2237 Ventura Street, Fresno (~1970’s-1980’s)

 

Charles Haron also operated an auto parts store in the 1970’s called, Import Auto Parts that was located across the street from his main facility. The address changed to 2239 Ventura Street in later years. 

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Google Maps, 2022

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