John Rollins’ First Business

by Dave on February 20, 2009

Many people know of the late entrepreneur and Lt. Governor of Delaware John W. Rollins, but few know that his very first business was a Ford dealership he opened with Theodore (Dory) Bryan in 1945 in Lewes.

According to Drury Pifer’s “Hanging the Moon,” Rollins was a hard-charging, seat-of-the-pants businessman in those days, often racking up enormous debts, but also building a dealership chain that stretched through three states.

His secretary at the time, Dorothy Harrison, remembers the hours as horrendous. “Work with Mr. Rollins was nothing like it was before he came along. I mean sometimes we’d start at five in the morning and go till after dark in the winter, and till dark in the summer. I’d come in around 8:00 and get through at 6:30. Then I’d go back at 8:00 [at night], though I wasn’t told to.

Rollins invented and developed the idea of automotive leasing during this time, a pioneer in the field, driving contrary to popular opinion at the time, where leasing a vehicle was as accepted an idea as putting a man on the moon.

John Rollins went on to become wildly successful in truck leasing, extermination and various other industries, but that legendary business career started with a simple Ford dealership right here in Lewes, DE, where his family still enjoys their vacation home.

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