Rick Spokane, a Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC Sales and Leasing Consultant has been in the business for almost 50 years! The Vindicator did a wonderful piece about Rick as well as the changes he's seen in the business since he started, take a look...It's a fantastic read!
Rick Spokane will turn 70 in October, but even after 48 years on the job, he doesn’t see retirement in his future.
A car salesman at Sweeney Chevrolet in Boardman, Spokane would gladly work another 48 years, if he could.
“It’s hard to believe that the time has gone as far as it’s gone. Seems like maybe five or 10 years, and it’s almost 50 years,” he said of his time in the business.
Spokane began selling cars in 1964, when he turned 21. Before becoming a salesman, however, he spent time in the service.
He joined the Marines in 1960, after graduating from Rayen High School. The day-to-day routine of life in the service proved tiring for Spokane, though, and he pursued other employment.
Spokane worked as a delivery driver for Radio Parts, a wholesale distributor, after he was released from the Marines. But he was fascinated by automobiles, and frequently visited car dealerships in his spare time.
His face became well-known at State Chevrolet, a lot he frequented on Wick Ave. The owner, who had seen him looking at cars, told Spokane to apply for a job.
“He told me to, when I turned 21, to come and see him and he’d be glad to give me an opportunity,” Spokane said. “And I did, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Spokane estimates he’s sold at least 8,500 cars during his time in the business. His average sales at Sweeney Chevrolet are around 15 cars a month, although in the 1960s, the number was much higher.
“You had a bigger audience that could buy,” he said. “Back then, you could have a little piece of a job, live at home, and $100 a month would buy you a brand-new car for just three years.”
There have been other changes in the automobile business since he started in the ’60s.
Cars are better quality now, Spokane said, because the manufacturer has more of an interest in customer satisfaction. With higher quality comes a higher price, however.
In 1970, the Impala was the car of choice. One could purchase the car for $2,995. If a buyer wanted to spend a bit more, he or she could purchase a Caprice at $3,295.
“It was a little easier back then for an entry-level buyer,” Spokane said. “Back then, they had three-year financing, and if you bought a $3,000 car and financed it for three years, you had a payment of $100 a month.”
High gas prices and a recession also have changed the business, although they haven’t completely stalled it. Rather, the preferred model of cars has shifted.
One of the most popular models at Sweeney Chevrolet is the Chevy Cruze. Spokane said the car is appealing for drivers who want to save on gas, because the car’s average gas mileage is 30 mpg. The new 2012 Chevy Cruze Eco boasts 42 highway mpg.
“With the price of gasoline, the smaller car is going to be a big part of the future, I would imagine,” he said, adding that other small, fuel- efficient cars such as the Malibu and Impala are popular choices as well.
With the high costs of buying a new vehicle, Spokane said leasing has taken over the business, with about 40 percent of Sweeney Chevrolet’s sales. The option was not popular in the ’60s, but now, buyers can purchase a new car with bumper-to-bumper warranty without caring for it long-term.
“You don’t have to put tires, brakes on it,” Spokane said. “You drive it for a few years, turn it in, and you can get something else. ... There’s no long-term obligation and a much lower payment.”
Spokane recommends that someone who is buying a new car go to a reputable dealer. Spokane, who has a brother and a sister, sells cars to friends and family members regularly.
John Vranches, a former car salesman, said Spokane has the reputation of being a trustworthy dealer. Vranches bought a car from Spokane in 2002. Although he would not describe Spokane as an aggressive person, he said he is a skilled salesman.
“When people deal with him, they just like him for the person he is,” Vranches said. “You wouldn’t stay in the business all these years if you weren’t good to customers.
Anthony Garono, sales manager at Sweeney Chevrolet, has been working with Spokane for seven years. Garono said Spokane has developed a loyal customer base because of his experience and trustworthiness. "He has the customers' best interests at heart," Garono said. "He's honest, and he's very straight forward...He's been doing it so long, and customers come to him for advice, whether to lease or buy, because he's been through it all."
Spokane is a people person, Garono said. He orders lunch for the staff everyday, works without complaints and meets all of his company objectives. He’s had difficulty using the new computer systems, Garano said, but he’s learning.
When most employees take their allotted day off, Spokane uses his on Sunday, a day when the dealership is closed.
“I don’t consider it work. I never did,” Spokane said, with a smile.
“I’d rather work 65 hours a week at something I like than 40 hours where you can’t wait to get out.”
To find out for yourself why Rick has stayed in the business for so long, give him a call at 330-726-2320 or stop in at 8010 Market Street and say hello!
A special thank you to Chelsea Miller of the Vindicator for writing such a wonderful peice!