"Chapman Ford, home of Smarty Jones, how may I direct your call?" That is the greeting people receive when they call the Chapman Ford dealership on Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia, indicating life is not exactly the same around the showroom since Smarty Fever hit the City of Brotherly Love.
Two large banners on the front gate also inform passersby that this is the "Home of Smarty Jones," hinting that buying a car from Smarty Jones' owner Roy Chapman will not be your typical, and often agitating, car-buying experience.
Chapman Ford, which as been a Northeast Philly fixture for decades, has grown over the years and now has seven dealerships spread across the Delaware Valley.
"It's electric here," said Irene Edinger, who delivers the ultimate sales pitch to callers. "I mean, people who knew Mr. Chapman 50 years ago are calling wanting to know how to get a hold him. It's just wonderful, and we're all so excited. It's been a lot of fun. We've had a lot of reporters and TV stations here, and some of the people here have been on TV news programs. It's just an exciting time."
All you have to do is come in for a test drive and you get a free Smarty Jones hat, says general sales manager Brian Ferraro. "Everybody's been talking about Smarty Jones, and we've gotten a lot of phone calls," Ferraro added. We're also getting some interesting feedback. For example, some people call or come in and want to know if the horse is here. They come in, some to do business and others just out of curiosity. Especially with the hat promotion, we're doing pretty good. It was a little quiet in the beginning of the month, but it's definitely picked up. We're all so happy for the Chapmans. They're great people."
With Roy Chapman now 78 and in bad health with emphysema, his sons, Randy and Michael, run the dealerships. "People are definitely caught up in all this," Randy said. "All our employees are excited, and they're all telling me how much money they've won, and how they wish the odds were a little better. We've been in business for a number of years, and we have a lot of repeat customers. While we're not all of a sudden having a big jump in sales, there's certainly recognition for the horse. There has been a lot of activity, and I've gotten a lot of calls.
"Every newscaster from TV and radio has contacted me trying to get my father and Pat, and we have to all help out with that. My father's holding up well and doing pretty good, considering his condition. We just have to make sure he doesn't overdo it. We have quite a few dealerships that my brother and I run, and between that and trying to help Pat and my dad get organized, it's been pretty hectic."