Francie Rehwald recalls the conversation as if it had just happened.
"My mother took all of our hands, and we stood in a circle,'' she says. "She looked at us and said, 'It's time for me to turn the business over to you all.' "
They knew they had big shoes to fill.
"It was an amazing moment,"
Rehhwald says. "She was saying that she trusted us and knew that we would do the right thing, carry on this business in the family tradition."
Mary Simonson Rehwald inherited W.I. Mercedes-Benz in Santa Monica, Calif., when her father, William I. Simonson, died in 1976. He had been a Mercedes dealer since 1957.
William I. Simonson opened his first Packard dealership in 1937 and acquired the Mercedes-Benz franchise in 1957. The firm is now among California's largest Mercedes dealerships.
The Wilshire Boulevard showroom, built in Spanish Revival style, is certified as an historical landmark.
Despite the urging of "certain people in the industry" that she sell the company, Rehwald says, her mother held steady and became one of only two female Mercedes-Benz dealers in the United States.
"She said that if her father had wanted those other people to have the business, he would have sold it to them,'' Rehwald says. "She really was an incredible lady.''
Rehwald co-owns the dealership with her sister, Judy Rehwald Richards, and her brother, Bill
Rehwald. In 1999 and 2000, respectively, the siblings, who declined to give their ages, opened Saab of Santa Monica and Saab of South Bay and hired a fourth-generation family member, Mary Richards Mathews, as general manager of the Saab dealerships.
"Initially, the business was my brother's passion,'' Rehwald says. "He started washing cars there when he was 13 years old and later served as a technician and a service adviser."