Charles “Pop” Rumplik, founder of Rumplik Chevrolet, Inc., was born in East Islip, only a few blocks from where he would open Rumplik's Garage. In 1919, at the age of 26, he married his bride, Helen, and by 1924, he opened the garage at 109 Carleton Avenue, just north of Union Boulevard.
Back then, westbound Union Boulevard ended at Carleton Avenue and only a dirt road lay to the west. Rumplik worked alone for three years before Chevrolet offered him a dealership. In his first year of business, he sold a record number of four cars. His was one of the many dealerships throughout Suffolk County and would become one of the oldest.
One aspect of his business that Charles would come to be remembered for was taking an old 1910 “Simplex” and turning it into a Tow Truck. When needed, the East Islip Fire Department would remove the Tow Crane and use the car for the Racing team. He later sold the truck during the 1960’s to a Museum in Southampton. It now rests with a private collector in Connecticut.
The Rumpliks lived on 1st avenue prior to the construction of the Garage. On August 24, 1924, the floor was laid on the building where Charles and Helen would soon live above their garage in a nine room apartment, and where they raised their 3 children (two sons and a daughter); Robert “Bob”, Charles “known as Charlie-Boy”, and Dolores.
As automobiles became more fashionable, the Rumplik business grew. Son, Bob, went off to College at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and after a stint in the Army during World War II, where he served as a tail gunner on a B-25 bomber in the Pacific theater, he returned to St. Lawrence and received his Bachelors degree in social work. Bob joined his father at Rumplik Chevrolet soon after his graduation because of his desire to maintain a family tradition in the business. He became a dealer and partner in the business in 1950.
Bob married Emily in 1947 and he and his wife still live in East Islip. They raised two children: son Jeffrey and daughter, Randee. Jeff, would have become the third generation Rumplik in the Chevrolet dealership business, but difficult times forced the sale of the business in 1980 only a year after Jeff had graduated from College. The new owners, who kept the name, closed the business three years later. Daughter Randee still works in the Automobile business today.
Over the years, Rumplik Chevrolet became an institution in East Islip. In 1966, The Rumplik’s invested in the expansion of a new building. Despite Chevrolet’s wish for them to build on the Long Island Expressway, land was available directly across the street in the large lot they used to store their stock cars.
The 20,000 square foot building became well known in the area for its architectural beauty and residents of the community took pride in it. With the 1966 expansion, sales catapulted and topped 900 automobiles a year.
The elder Rumplik, though, died in 1967 and never saw the extent of the growth of the business he founded. The building would expand two times over the years. Four bays were added within the first 10 years, then, in the seventies, Bob decided to build a larger 2 story Parts room and more Bays around the back, which served as the “New Car Make-Ready area”.
Want to know a secret about the New building? While construction of the Parts room was going on, Bob put a few items of the times in a large envelope and placed it in-between the bricks and the cinder blocks right above the parts room entrance. Someday, a hundred or two years from now, when the building comes down, someone will find it and hopefully they’ll remember to give what’s left of it to the historical society. There’s also a tube with similar information sunk into the cement in the flower box that housed the original Rumplik sign on the front lawn.
As a young man, Bob ran a gas station on the corner of Main Street and Bayview Avenue which was later bought by Charlie Horal. Bob says, "As a kid, I pumped gas at seven gallons for $1.05! I remember when labor was $1.00 an hour and when unemployment paid $21 a week. But that was a long time ago." According to Bob, the taxes on the old garage exceeded per year the total amount of what it cost to construct the building.
The old building is still used as a body shop/garage and Mrs. Helen Rumplik lived in her nine room apartment above it well into her late 80’s. Helen died at 92 in 1989. Here’s an interesting fact about the old building; On August 24, 1924, Charles was pouring the new floor in the repair area and brought Bobby in and placed his feet in the wet cement. Bob was one at the time. That impression is still visible today. If you wanted to see it, from the front door, it’s almost straight ahead, about the fourth square in, roughly 25 – 30 feet on the right edge of the block. Later, when Bob started having his own children, he made sure that the tradition would continue and son Jeff would get his footprints in the cement in two places: The front Doorway to the shop, and under the rack near the back garage door. Those aren’t as easy to find.
While running Rumplik Chevrolet, Bob Rumplik remained a contributing member of the community over the years. He was the 2nd President of the Exchange club. An organization that was created to help the community. One of their first decisions was to purchase an Ambulance. Bob was the first Ambulance Driver. Today, the Ambulance company, Exchange Ambulance of the Islips is what’s left of the Exchange Club. Bob was a Director of the First National Bank of East Islip, a member of the East Islip Fire Department, Bob celebrated his 57th year in 2005. He was Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners in East Islip for which he was a board member for 24 years, a past Captain of the East Islip Hook and Ladder, a charter member of the American Legion Post 48, and a member of the East Islip Anglers.
By Rumplik’s 50th Anniversary as a dealership, the business was the only Chevrolet dealership on Long Island to receive the Chevrolet Service Supremacy Dealership award. In the five years prior, only 180 out of Chevrolet's 6,000 dealerships had received this honor.
Today, Bob and Emily still live in their East Islip home that Bob built in 1954. Their Children are both married and live close to each other in Sayville. Bob and Emily have 4 grandchildren. Charles, moved to Fort Myers, Florida in the Fifties and while raising his four children, Nancy, Barbara, Raymond and Russell would travel North each summer for years to live on the family property in Lenox Massachusetts, where he ran the “Blue Haven Turkey Farm”; a roadside “Deli” where he cooked fresh Turkeys on spits behind the counter and sold them along with salads and drinks as picnic lunches for guests visiting nearby “Tanglewood”. He was the “Boston Market” of his day! He now resides in North Carolina. His Daughter Nancy still lives in Lenox. Dolores married Gene Levy of Gene Levy Trucking and raised their family; Lynn, Bruce and Karen in Oakdale. She now resides in Florida.
The old building was bought by The Town of Islip and to this day is used as a repair station for town vehicles.
For people who still remember the old days, I get story after story of how Rumplik Chevrolet was run by an honest family. I get to re-live the lives of my Father and Grandfather many times. My favorite story was from a man I met in a Real Estate office in St. James, who told me he had just come out of the Army and he needed a car. My Father sold him a car “on a Handshake”! No deposit, no nothing, just his word. My Father made good on his promise, and that man never forgot it. Neither did I.