Founder of Bob Johnson Chevrolet dies at 84


Businessman and philanthropist Robert “Bob” Johnson died last week in Sarasota, Florida. He was 84.

Born and raised in Chicago, Mr. Johnson became a prominent businessman and proprietor of Bob Johnson Chevrolet, a minority-owned car dealership.

Mr. Johnson sold majority ownership of the auto group to his longtime employee Greg Stahl in 2001 and retired to Florida the following year. The Bob Johnson Auto Group, founded in 1981, now has 17 locations, most of which are located within the Rochester region. With more than 1,200 employees, it is one of the largest family-owned dealership groups in the nation.

The company, owned by Stahl and John Love, consistently finds itself on the Greater Rochester Chamber Top 100 list each year. The list ranks Rochester’s fastest-growing companies, and Bob Johnson was ranked No. 11 in 2020. 

In a 2003 Democrat and Chronicle article, Mr. Johnson said his proudest honor came in 1998 when he was nominated by the New York State Automobile Dealers Association for Time magazine’s Quality Dealer Award. Criteria for the award includes sales, leadership, profitability and customer satisfaction.

Fellow auto dealers summed up Mr. Johnson’s career in one word: integrity.

“Bob was just a class act,” said Brad McAreavy, president of the Rochester Automobile Dealers Association, who first met Mr. Johnson in 1998. “He was a first-class gentleman and a very easy-going man.”

Often, his friends said, he would quietly help people in need — employees, friends and strangers.

Mr. Johnson left high school at 17 to join the U.S. Air Force and received an honorable discharge after serving for four years. After he completed his GED, he enrolled in junior college and later earned his bachelor’s degree in business management and accounting.

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