Bob Ross Auto Group celebrates 50 years of business

CENTERVILLE — Breaking barriers one car sale at a time, the Bob Ross Auto Group is the first African American owned Mercedes-Benz dealership in the country.

It’s just one of the many barriers it has broken as it celebrates 50 years in business.

“I mean, who doesn’t want to come in and jump in and out of cars when your a kid,” said Jenell Ross, President of Bob Ross Auto Group.

Ross has been walking the halls and talking cars since she was four years old. Now she’s the president of Bob Ross Auto Group, the dealership her father started 50 years ago.

“It’s, you know, hard to believe that we’ve reached this milestone, but I give kudos and homage to my parents,” Ross said.

In 1974, Bob Ross became the first African American to own a Buick dealership in Indiana. In 1979 he became the first to own one in Ohio and the first in the country to own a Mercedes-Benz dealership.

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“He worked extremely hard, made a lot of sacrifices and many of those,” Ross said. “Minority dealers that are in business today, you know, he paved that way for them and for us to be able to continue and living out history.”

A history Ross continues today as the only African American woman to own a Buick-GMC dealership as well a Mercedes-Benz dealership.

“There has been progress but there’s definitely much more progress that needs to happen and that’s something that with some of our involvement and community outreach, bringing those opportunities in for people to see that they can be. They can be me,” Ross said.

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That focus on community comes from another pillar of the Bob Ross Auto Group, Bob’s wife and Ross’s mom, Norma. She and her two children took over the dealership when Bob died suddenly in 1997.

“That’s where my mother just really rose to the occasion. And by her being a former educator, it was very different working with both of them, but having that opportunity was a true blessing,” Ross said.

A lot has changed in 50 years, but one thing hasn’t. The Ross family is still in the driver’s seat.

“I just always kind of just jumped in and made sure that what he’s worked for isn’t lost. And fortunately, I’ve had a lot of great people to help me along the way,” Ross said.

Just as her parents taught her she knows she can’t do it without the people around her.

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