50 years chasing the “American Dream”

The 50 year career of Mike Kelsey of Kelsey Chevrolet


Matt King

The view of Kelsey Chevrolet from Route 50 in Lawrenceburg. edited by Matt King

The American dream is defined as “the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” For Mike Kelsey, Kelsey Chevrolet is the pinnacle of success and the final step in reaching the “American Dream. Kelsey Chevrolet is the direct offspring of Mr. Kelsey’s hard work, determination and initiative.

Picture of the Kelsey family Photo by: Matt King

There is an old saying that states once you reach the top, don’t forget the means by which you came. I sat down with Mr. Kelsey, my grandpa, and discussed briefly his past and the means by which he got tow where he is today.

The ongoing success story of Kelsey Chevrolet was also brought up. We are given a vision into the future of the dealership provided by my uncles, Paul and Walt, and what they have learned from their boss, father-in-law, and dad, Mike Kelsey.

In the beginning, he was lured into the car business for a few reasons. The first reason he said was his dad. Like himself, his father spent a lifetime in the car business. In addition, my grandpa saw the opportunity to make a difference. Traditionally, salesmen back then had been doing things the same way for a long time, but traditionally speaking, it worked. Mr. Kelsey saw a way to make it work even better, and that was to treat customers like family. This motto became Kelsey Chevrolet’s slogan: “From our family to yours.”

Left to right: Paul Cluxton, Bay Guidugli, Mike Kelsey, and Walt Kelsey Photo by: Matt King

In 1966, Mike Kelsey started his career in the car business at the age of 16. He began as a lot-boy at Jake Sweeney Pontiac. Over the course of his career, he worked at six different dealerships: Jake Sweeney Pontiac, Tom Sweeney, Larry Risher Pontiac, Jake Sweeney Chevrolet, McCluskey Chevrolet and, of course, Kelsey Chevrolet.

Mr. Kelsey’s experience and knowledge was passed down to his son, Walt, and his son-in-law, Paul. Both Paul and Walt understand how lucky they are to have him as a mentor. When I spoke with Walt, he recited a quote from his dad that is the perfect illustration of his hard work and determination: “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon…will inevitably come to pass!”

Paul told me, “He is a man of the highest character. He is the type of guy you would run through a wall for. If everyone had Mike Kelsey as a father, then the world would be a much better place.” Obviously, he has had a powerful influence on both Paul, Walt and countless others.

This summer marked the 50th anniversary of Mr. Kelsey’s career in the car business, and as of January 2015, he has reached the top. His very own dealership, Kelsey Chevrolet, has experienced much success in the Tri-State over the past two years.

When I asked him how they have been so successful, he said, “In order to be successful, you have to have ‘players!’.” With many players in the lineup, at Kelsey Chevrolet, they have a motto on how to treat their customers: “We are blessed to be surrounded by quality people and thus, we treat our customers like family!”