Lost Memphis: Klyce Motors — Memphis' Studebaker Dealership

Brothers Arnold and Walter Klyce opened Klyce Motors, Memphis’ only Studebaker dealership, on South Cleveland in 1945. Newspapers praised the building’s clean design, created by Memphis architect Zeno Yeates, and proclaimed it “one of the most modern and attractive dealerships in the South.”

This photo, taken in 1950, shows a pair of what appear to be 1949 Studebaker Commander models parked at the curb (the gentlemen in the photo were not identified). These two cars probably weren’t sold to customers, since each one has the company name and address painted rather prominently on the doors, along with the catchy slogan, “They’re Nice at Klyce.”

The Klyce brothers also operated the White Rose Laundry Company, with branches located throughout Memphis as well as in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Arnold decided to run the Studebaker dealership, while Walter devoted his time to the laundry, though each one remained a vice president of the other’s business. To say Arnold had multiple interests would be an understatement. He once owned a banana plantation in Central America, served as campaign manager for Henry Loeb when Loeb ran for public works commissioner, directed Loeb’s equally successful campaign for mayor, and in his spare time served as president of the Memphis Polo Association and the Memphis Area Automobile Association.

Studebakers, though packed with innovative features and noted for their futuristic (some might say ahead-of-their-time) designs, never really caught on with the motoring public. Arnold Klyce closed the dealership on Cleveland in 1952. The Studebaker Company struggled for years, but finally went bankrupt in 1964.

Towards the end of his life, Klyce donated $100,000 towards the construction of a new facility for Theatre Memphis on Perkins Extended. When he was asked to stand up before the premiere performance in the new building and be applauded for his gift — at the time the largest donation to a performing-arts group in Memphis — he told reporters he couldn’t take any credit, saying, “I didn’t drive a single nail in the construction of this beautiful building.” Only the Lauderdales share that level of modesty.


Reader Comments:
Oct 11, 2011 10:36 am
 Posted by  warbirdali

Do you know if that building is still there? (a rehetorical question since you know everything..I should ask "Can you please tell us...?")

Oct 25, 2011 03:03 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The address on the cars looks like "13 S Cleveland". The street view on Google for that address shows a Circle-K dealer as the most likely location for that address, since none of the older buildings on the opposite side could be this one.

Jan 5, 2012 02:17 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I actually used to swim inside the Studebaker building.

In the early 1990s, when the French Riviera Spa opened a fitness center on Cleveland, someone there told me that the building had originally been a Studebaker dealership that they had remodeled. They'd even installed a small lap pool in it.

I can't with absolute certainty remember the exact spot, but I am quite positive it was on the opposite side of Cleveland as the Circle-K. I remember that there was a large parking lot behind the building, and that's where the main entrance was.

Looking at aerial and street photos on Google maps, it may very well be the spot which now has what appears to be an office for the Social Security Administration. If that was the location, and I highly suspect it it was, then the Studebaker building was probably demolished just in the last 5-10 years.

Dec 3, 2012 10:37 pm
 Posted by  Cerydwyn

During the process of scanning my family's old photographs, I came across a collection of my Dad's photos taken while he was attending photography school. One of these is a photo of a street scene in which, on the left, there is a sign saying "Studebaker, Klyce Motors, (third line not legible), Used Cars. Was this a secondary store for used vehicles? Progressing down the street, beginning next to Klyce, is a Toddle House, B.F. Goodrich-Swayne Latham. Across the street from Klyce is a small flower shop, Kroger Supermarket, and a Goodrich. There are other businesses, but the signs are partially blocked or difficult to make out, but could probably be read if you know what you are looking for. I'm wondering where in Memphis this might be located.

Two other photos which I have been unable to place, and wonder if are also in Memphis, shows a diagonally-situated, corner Texaco station with a large Halvoline billboard behind it. The photo appears to have been taken from a second story window across the street. On the cross-street is Stricklin Studio, Putnam, R&T Food Market. On the same side of the street as the Texaco is a sign on the building behind it "Hausser's, Ladies & Men's, Ready to Wear, Wallpaper. There are two photos of this area, one in summer and one in winter, while lightly snowing. Any ideas? Thank you so much.

Also, I found it amazing to see the architect for the Klyce building was named Zeno. My grandfather was named Zeno Boatright - not a name I have come across other than his.

Cynthia Boatright Raleigh

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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