Of all the car dealerships in the country, Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg chose to buy one in Columbus.
And Chris Haydocy and Cathy Johnson, president of the West Side economic development organization Weston Vision and chair of the Westland Area Business Association, respectively, hope his name and fame will draw customers who also will patronize other west side businesses.
Haydocy, who owns Haydocy Buick GMC, a competing dealership across Broad Street, said Wahlberg's investment in Columbus shows the time is "ripe for Westland redevelopment."
Wahlberg and his business partner, Jay Feldman, who owns a network of dealerships in Michigan, announced last week they had purchased Bobby Layman Chevrolet, 3900 W. Broad St. This is Wahlberg's first foray into the automotive business.
The dealership has been renamed Mark Wahlberg Chevrolet and its website updated to include shots of Wahlberg with vehicles and dramatic backdrops.
Feldman is a partner with Wahlberg and his brothers in several Wahlburgers restaurants, a Boston-based hamburger chain with a location in Cleveland.
Haydocy expects sales at Wahlberg Chevrolet will increase.
"There's an adage that a rising tide lifts all ships. I fully anticipate that Layman sales will double and we'll have more people coming out to the west side and having more people shopping the two of us.
"I'm not embarrassed to say that we want to use his name in goodwill -- just using it, so to speak, to testify about the vitality of the west side," Haydocy said. "There's 50 states in the country and 10,000 to 20,000 auto dealerships, but he chose this one."
Haydocy pointed out there are Wahlburgers restaurants within a few hundred feet of casinos in the Greektown area of Detroit and in Cleveland. Hollywood Casino Columbus is just south of Wahlberg Chevrolet.
Redevelopment of the Westland Mall site could include such uses as a multi-sport facility or a small amphitheater, and of course, "a Wahlburgers would be great," Haydocy said.
"Our first hurdle was the attraction of the Columbus Hollywood Casino and from that, we got a critical spark. It's a very organic type of growth in this community," he said. "The Wahlberg name is a buzz that will be self-fulfilling. It's a celebrity attraction. It's a calling card that we now have that other sections of town don't."
Layman, who died in 2014 at the age of 82, was well known in central Ohio for his outrageous television commercials and a jingle that included a chorus of "Bobby Layman! Bobby Layman!"
He was also a longtime supporter of west side businesses, Johnson said.
"We are extremely excited that the business is sold and that they are planning to expand and hire more employees," she said. "It's certainly my hope that it brings people out to the dealership and then they take advantage of the restaurants and other businesses in the area."
The dealership plans to hire to fill a number positions and some available jobs have already been posted online. Feldman said there are plans for a Wahlberg line of special-edition Chevys, only available at the Columbus dealership.
As a member of the South-Western City Schools Board of Education, Johnson said she hopes the Wahlberg dealership will partner with schools on things such as job placement and the career center's automotive classes.
Wahlberg came to fame as a teenage pop star in the 1980s and moved into movies in the 1990s. He has starred in "The Departed," "The Italian Job," "Shooter," and the "Transformers" franchise.
In a statement announcing the purchase of the Layman dealership, Wahlberg said, "I am continuously looking for ways to innovate my brand and engage in businesses I am passionate about. I love cars and the chance to work with an experienced, proven dealer-operator like Jay and represent an iconic brand like Chevrolet inspired me to get involved."
With all the change, there is one tradition that Johnson said she hopes Wahlberg keeps around.
"It'd be crazy to change '39-oh-oh West Broad,' " Johnson said, referring to the longtime Bobby Layman jingle. "We all know it."
Columbus Dispatch reporter JD Malone contributed to this story.