2013-11-22 / Front Page

Jolly John lives on in cyberspace

By Ann Fisher
Contributing writer/copy editor

CAPE ELIZABETH – Although he’s been gone for nearly three years, John Pulsifer – better known as Jolly John – lives on – thanks to the Internet and the love of his family.

Pulsifer’s daughter, Michelle Puslifer-Gordon, and sonin law Peter Gordon, have carried the Jolly John name forward through the website, jollyjohn.com, where the Jolly John Auto Mall has reopened for business.

“It’s been getting well over 1,000 hits each month,” said Gordon in a prepared release.

“People know the Jolly John name,” said Pulsifer-Gordon, who resides in Cape with her family.

Pulsifer, arguably Maine’s best-known and loved car dealer, was in the car business for more than 50 years before his untimely death from pancreatic cancer in 2011. Pulsifer-Gordon said her dad started by working for his father in the family’s two Portland gas stations, pumping gas and changing oil and filters. As he acquired his own dealerships on the so-called “auto mile” in Saco, Pulsifer became “so well known for … his crazy commercials,” said Pulsifer-Gordon.

Wacky moves by Pulsifer included dressing in a banana suit to advertise “the deal with appeal.” But on the serious side, Pulsifer combined his talent for marketing with appeals for charity. He once dressed in a diaper to get customers to donate diapers in a successful bid for disaster relief. As a Shriner, he was also known for his generosity and philanthropy.

Pulsifer was “very trusted and respected by customers and dealers for the honest way he did business,” Pulsifer- Gordon said about her father.

She and Gordon want to build on that trust, which they both helped establish for almost 30 years, well before he and Pulsifer-Gordon were married 19 years ago.

Pulsifer-Gordon also worked for her dad before leaving the workforce to raise a family nearly 20 years ago. She said the Jolly John Auto Mile “in cyberspace” will continue to be a family business: two of the couple’s three sons have a hand in search engine optimization and promoting ideas on the Internet.

“They are so much better than we are,” said Pulsifer- Gordon about Micheal, 18, and Christopher, 15. Sam, 9, rounds out the family.

According to Pulsifer-Gordon, who wrote the obituary that was published in the Portland Press Herald, Pulsifer invented his alter ego when he answered the phone one day: “The phone rang,” Gordon said, and Pulsifer answered, ‘Jolly John Pulsifer speaking, the Polish prince of happiness. How may I help you?’

Pulsifer-Gordon said his father-in-law always answered his own phone and disapproved of screening calls.

“He was at the dealership all the time,” said Pulsifer- Gordon. “He didn’t care if a little kid called him up to hear him say ‘Hi-ho!’ or a complaint. Someday that 6-year-old would buy a car.”

Pulsifer was not only jolly, he was the king of customer service, said his family. People knew when they came to the dealership they would not only get a decent price, but excellent service after the sale.

His daughter and son-in-law now want to make it easy to look for a car in the digital age by bargaining on behalf of the customer.

“The haggling’s been done by the experts,” said Pulsifer- Gordon about the vehicles listed online.

The website went live Nov. 1 with vehicles from dealerships from all over Maine, as well as New Hampshire. The reaction from dealers has been “very positive,” Gordon said. “They are very excited about it.”

The website banner proclaims, “The Legend Lives On” with a head shot of Pulsifer’s wide, toothy grin.

“He would be honored his name is still recognized,” said Pulsifer-Gordon.

To find a vehicle, visitors fill out the information about the type, model and year they are looking for. When the results pop up, so does the dealer’s price and a button to push to “Get the Jolly Price.” Customers then contact the dealer directly to purchase the vehicle of their choice.

“The cars are in cyberspace with Jolly,” Gordon said.

“Jolly was very well known nationwide,” said Gordon, adding that he and his family hope the new company will eventually go national. Even so, Pulsifer-Gordon pointed out that the Jolly John Auto Mile would still be a local company, based in Maine.

“We kind of feel like he’s guiding us,” said Pulsifer- Gordon about her late father. “This feels like a natural step.”

For more information, call 1-800-HI-JOLLY toll-free.

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