By Andrea McCann Times Sentinel Managing Editor
Zionsville Times Sentinel
---- — As Zionsville has grown and changed, one thing has changed little: Bentley Zionsville has anchored the block on First Street between Sycamore and Hawthorne streets since 1969. Though both the façade and the name have undergone some changes through the years, the business has been going strong at that location under the guidance of the Albers family for 44 years. However, Bentley Zionsville actually is celebrating its 50th anniversary in business this year, having been founded in 1963 in Indianapolis. "My dad used to work for a dealership in Indianapolis — It was a Rolls-Royce/Bentley dealership — in the late 50s, early 60s," explained Greg Albers, who now runs Bentley Zionsville with his brother, Mark. Hermann Albers began his career there as a technician, Greg said, and was quickly promoted to service manager. He retained that position until the dealership ceased operation in 1962. At that time, Hermann began servicing the cars of the former dealership's customers and, in May 1963, established an authorized Rolls-Royce and Bentley repair facility on 46th Street in Broad Ripple. As his reputation for quality service grew, in 1964 he moved the business to a larger building on 54th Street. Then, according to Greg, in 1968, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motorcars announced they would discontinue factory authorized service centers and install a dealer franchise network. Hermann was offered the opportunity to be the Indianapolis-area franchise dealer. In need of more space and with limited funds, he eventually found a building in Zionsville that had housed a welding company. It needed extensive work, but Hermann believed with the completion of I-465 around Indianapolis, Zionsville would be an ideal location with easy access to Indianapolis. The building was transformed into Albers Rolls-Royce, and Hermann began doing business as Indiana's only Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealership. Greg joined his father at the dealership part time in 1976 and full time in 1981. Mark began part time in 1978 and went full time in 1984. Greg said Hermann wouldn't let his sons become vested in the business for eight years because it's such a responsibility and he wanted them to be sure of their commitment. "Mark and I worked with him about 20 years full time, and part time before that," Greg said, adding that Hermann eventually relinquished the day-to-day responsibilities to the brothers but continued to go to the office every day and manage it until his death — at work — in 2002. "It's where he would've wanted to pass away," Greg said. By 1988, Albers Rolls-Royce was named the largest dealer of genuine Rolls-Royce and Bentley parts in the world. The same year, the Albers family expanded the dealership, creating the area that now houses service and parts. Then, in 1999, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motorcars was sold in an unusual and complicated way, and in 2003 the companies split. Due to space constraints and access to heritage parts, the Albers dropped the Rolls-Royce line and remained exclusively a Bentley franchise. Now Bentley Zionsville, the brothers added showroom space in 2005, creating the current façade. The business is three-pronged: They sell cars and provide service and parts. See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.