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Naylor Auto closes chapter on a 103-year story of family

By Carley Porter daily Herald - | Aug 25, 2019
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Greg Baum holds up a photo of him and his father in a scrapbook on Aug. 16, 2019. After 103 years in Provo, Naylor Auto closes its doors this month. 

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Greg Baum flips through a scrapbook containing photos and old articles about Naylor Auto, which closes its doors August 2019 after 103 years in business in Provo.

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Greg Baum looks through old articles and photographs of Naylor Auto on Aug. 16, 2019 at his office in Provo. Naylor Auto has operated in Provo for 103 years.

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Greg Baum spreads out an old, yellowing newspaper ad Naylor Auto placed in the Daily Herald years ago on Aug. 16, 2019. Naylor Auto operated in Provo for 103 years.

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An old, full page ad Naylor Auto placed in the paper several decades ago, shown by Greg Baum on Aug. 16, 2019. Naylor Auto closes August 2019 after 103 years of business in Provo.

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Greg Baum poses next to paint on Naylor Auto's window which reads, "store closing," on Aug. 16, 2019. Baum says he plans to do a lot of fly fishing after retiring. 

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A photo of Naylor Auto, which has operated in Provo for 103 years, and at it's current location for several decades. It closes August 2019. 

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Greg Baum holds up a picture of his father (left) shaking hands with business colleagues. Baum inherited the Naylor Auto business from his father Don, and is retiring August 2019.

Naylor Auto has been in business in Provo for 103 years. Originally founded as a Dodge dealership by George Naylor, it was taken over by George Naylor’s son Ralph, who sold it in 1960 to Don Baum and Rex Hughes. After Hughes died in 1970, Don Baum became the sole owner, until his son Greg took over in 1981.

Now, Greg Baum is closing Naylor Auto’s doors for the final time. Although it’s a big decision to make, Baum said he feels at peace with it and he’s ready to move on to the next phase of his life.

“I’m going to do whatever the heck I darn well want to do now,” Baum said. “I (don’t) know how many years of health I have left and I decided, I don’t want to spend them going to work everyday.”

For now, Baum said his plan is to do a lot of fly fishing for the next few months, followed by lots of skiing in the winter.

“Come January I’ll see how retirement agrees with me,” he said.

Still, closing the dealership is “bittersweet,” Baum said. He cherishes the relationships he built with fellow Dodge dealers when he owned a Dodge franchise, and since selling the Dodge franchise in 1996 and becoming a used car salesman in 1998, he said he’s valued all the employees and customers he’s had over the years.

“I’ve been flooded with calls and visits the last couple weeks as people have seen the sign,” Baum said. “Those relationships are really sweet.”

But the memories Baum said he values the most, are the memories of working with his father.

Don Baum was a divorced father raising three little girls when he met Greg Baum’s mother, also divorced. Don Baum adopted Greg soon after.

“He was the best thing that could have happened to an 8-year-old boy,” Greg Baum said.

Greg Baum said he began working with his dad at Naylor Auto when he was just 8 years old, going to the dealership on Saturday mornings where he would sweep the shop or clean the cars, followed by lunch with his dad at a local cafe before his dad took him home for the afternoon.

“I think he just wanted me around,” Greg Baum said. “The years of actually working with my dad here were really … choice experiences.”

When he was 18, Greg Baum began attending Brigham Young University with the intention of becoming a lawyer, while working at the dealership to help pay for school. But by the time he became a sophomore, Greg Baum said he was bitten by the “car bug.”

“I loved people, I loved the process, and so I graduated in business in 1979 from BYU. I was full time from that point forward.”

Greg Baum took over the business from his father in 1981. Don Baum passed away unexpectedly five years later from a heart attack. Working at the dealership, Baum said, has helped him stay connected to his dad.

“Since 1986 I sat at the same desk he sat at his entire life,” Greg Baum said. “He was my dad, he was my boss, and until he died he was probably my very best friend … we were just really close.”

The legacy of his own father’s love, Greg Baum said, has helped him have similar close relationships with his own wife and children. Greg Baum said his father treated his mother “like a queen,” which has informed his own marriage, and of course the closeness with his dad informed his experiences as a parent. Three of Greg Baum’s four kids have also worked odd jobs at the dealership, with Greg Baum’s own son Donny — named for his grandfather — using it to pay for school at BYU.

“What a blessing and fun experience that has been, to share the work environment with your children,” Greg Baum said. “(My father) really taught me how to have a happy, loving relationship.”

Donny Baum, Greg Baum’s third child and only son, said the dealership has always been “family centered and family driven.” He remembers starting to do odd jobs with the cars as a young boy, even learning to drive at an earlier age than normal, being surrounded by cars. Despite the seeming tradition of handing down the business father to son, Donny Baum said Greg Baum sat him down when he was a college student and urged him to seek his own career, concerned about the way the business was changing.

Seeing the dealership close, Donny Baum said, is “not an easy thing.”

“From my perspective, it sort of marks the transition … in the ways communities are structured,” Donny Baum said. “In the past … Naylor Auto was a really important part of the Provo community, and people just sort of relied on it to be there and knew my dad and grandpa and my grandfather’s people who were extremely trustworthy and dependable, and they knew they could go to them and they would be taken care of.”

Both Donny Baum and Greg Baum said the car industry has changed significantly in recent decades, and Naylor Auto was a business with sort of “old school” values by comparison.

“I do think this is a bit of a loss for our local community,” Donny Baum said.

Despite the loss, Greg Baum said he thinks his dad would be smiling. In an ironic twist of fate, Greg Baum is retiring at the same age his father was when he passed away — 63.

“I’ve been 45 years in the car business and I don’t have a big love of cars … I loved what I did, but it just provided so many opportunities for me and my dad before me,” he said.

This year was the first year Greg Baum said he didn’t enjoy going into work everyday, which is what let him know it was time to retire. And being able to make that choice, he said, is part of why he thinks his dad would be happy with the decision.

“I think he would be smiling because I’m doing it on my timetable.”

Greg Baum still owns the building Naylor Auto is housed in. It will be leased to Pro Audio, which has been renting a part of the building for the last 11 years; Pro Audio will expand their business into the rest of the building moving forward.

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