In February 1928, Lewis C. Elderd (1875-1931), whose ancestry on Long Island dates back to 1660, built a modest 39’ by 77’ one-story brick-faced salesroom and garage. The structure, which cost $9,000, was designed by the architect Joseph J. Gunther of Valley Stream. In April 1928, two gas pumps were installed on the 15’ front yard of the property.
Elderd’s first tenant was William L Ludwig (1893-1968), the proprietor of Hupmobile Automobile Sales & Service. In 1909, the Hupp Motor Car Company (Hupp) was founded in Detroit by Robert Hupp. The first four-cylinder model became an immediate success. But in 1925, the strategy to make the Hupmobile bigger, faster and more expensive with a six-cylinder engine backfired. The company lost its established clientele who preferred the more economical four-cylinder model. By 1932, William Lingner (1897-1974) was an investor in the business. In 1935, Ludwig and Lingner shuttered their business and filed for bankruptcy (Hupp, the parent company, went out of business in 1939).
In 1935, Raynor Motors, a Pontiac dealership, moved into the vacant building. Oliver R. Raynor (1892-1938), previously sold Plymouths in his hometown of Eastport. On September 21, 1938 – the date of the infamous “Great New England Hurricane” Oliver drowned in Westhampton when his boat capsized. During WWI, Raynor was a Surfman, a member of the Coast Guard’s elite U.S. Lifesaving Service. It is unclear if Raynor was on a lifesaving mission when he perished that day, but it is likely.
In February 1945, John J. Fogelman (1892-1984), an immigrant from Proskurov (modern-day Ukraine), opened a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. In 1947, Fogelman started construction on the northwest corner of East Merrick Road and Horton Avenue. He moved into his new shop later that year but continued to run his business concurrently from both locations until 1949.
The next occupant, DICA Equipment Sales Co., Inc. sold tractors, bulldozers, and lawn mowers, occupying the space from 1950 through 1953. In February 1952, a 40’ by 40’ one-story cinder block addition was added to the back of the original building; the cost was $4,000. The architect was Alwin Cassens, Jr. of Forest Hills. Cali Manufacturing, a factory that made pew cushions and kneeling benches for churches, occupied the addition.
In May 1960, Raymond F. Cohen (1908-1980) founded Island Auto Electric (IAE), an automobile parts and repair business that specialized in electrical systems. Cohen hired Robert W. Stenhouse and Robert C. Riley that same year. In 1970, a building permit for interior alterations was filed, and Cohen was listed as the property owner (he purchased the land from Elderd’s estate).
Cohen sold both the business and property to Stenhouse and Riley shortly before his passing in August 1980. Fred Wunsch, who grew up in West Hempstead, started working at IAE in 1979, after completing high school and while attending college. An Oldsmobile aficionado who owns several classic models, Wunsch was once Treasurer and President of The Long Island & New York City Oldsmobile Club. Wunsch bought out Stenhouse and Riley’s share of IAE in 1988 and 1998, respectively. Today, the majority of the business is in the sale and repair of aircraft ground equipment parts. As Wunsch explained where walls once stood and what materials were original to the building during a recent tour of the property, he casually popped out a couple of drop ceiling tiles which revealed a beautiful and intricately-designed tin ceiling.
“Ray [Cohen] was like a surrogate father to me,” explained Bob Riley in a recent email, “and I was one to Fred.” Both Riley and Stenhouse continue to enjoy their retirements while Wunsch, now the sole owner, carefully steers IAE into its sixth decade. “I still drive my 1983 Olds Cutlass wagon to work each day; the car has 324,000 miles.” One might say that his business and wheels are perfectly aligned.
Location: 35 East Merrick Road (northwest corner of North Grove Street)