Monday, April 12, 1999 | 11:23 a.m.
Ben Stepman, a longtime auto dealer and pitchman who created the catch phrase "Henderson, of course," died this morning. He was 80.
Stepman died at St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Henderson where he recently was admitted. The cause was not immediately available. He recently underwent surgery there.
Stepman was long known in the auto dealership industry before he came to Southern Nevada in 1976. He subsequently opened Dodge, Yugo and Hyundai stores.
During his 30 years as an auto dealer in St. Louis, Stepman made history when he became the nation's first dealer to hire women to sell cars.
He came to Las Vegas to retire. In fact, Stepman and his wife, Billie, were in Las Vegas looking for a retirement home when their car was rear-ended at Maryland Parkway and Vegas Valley Drive.
While shopping for a new car, they were displeased with the treatment they were given by local dealers, and Stepman decided to re-enter the car sales business.
Stepman bought the bankrupt Henderson Dodge in 1976, put it into the black and sold it in the late 1970s only to buy it back in the early '80s.
"We started with the phrase, 'We're the other Dodge dealer,' and that really took off," Stepman told the Sun in 1994. Eventually the competing Dodge dealer moved from Henderson to Las Vegas.
Later, while sitting in his tiny, unpretentious office at his dealership on North Boulder Highway, he came up with the two little words he would tack on to the name of the city where his business was located.
In his television commercials, he delivered the phrase "In Henderson, of course," with a broad smile, arms outstretched, palms up.
The one-liner became so popular that some Southern Nevadans, in every day conversation, would say "of course" after they or someone else would utter the word Henderson.
It became the cornerstone of the Ben Stepman Creative Advertising business he opened in March 1980 to produce local radio and television ads, catering to small and medium businesses
In 1982 Henderson's Chamber of Commerce elected him Stepman their president.