Employees are the key
Ozaukee Economic Development honors Newman Chevrolet as mid-sized business of the year

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

Oct. 25, 2016

Newman Chevrolet’s management team members , from left, are President Chad Curran, Body Shop Manager Craig Judson, Truck Manager Tony Pirlot, Office Manager Becky Helmlinger, Sales Manager Dale Mayr and Service Director Mark Czerwinski.
Photo by Laurie Arendt

CEDARBURG — As president of Newman Chevrolet, Chad Curran actually heard that his dealership earned the Ozaukee Economic Development Council’s Medium Business of the Year award quite by accident.

“I actually ran into Joe Fazio from Commerce State Bank – the small business award winner this year – and he congratulated me on the award,” said Curran. “I’m not sure how or why, but I didn’t get the original message, and we were quite surprised.”

Regardless of the messenger, the fact that the longtime dealership won the award is in keeping with the message Curran says he often hears and passes on to 48 employees on a regular basis.

“At the end of the day, it’s humbling to receive an award like this,” he said. “But the accolades really belong to all of our employees. One of the things that I really like to do is pass on the compliments when I hear them – if someone had a great experience with our service department or were impressed with their experience in purchasing a vehicle from us. It’s important for me to accept those kudos and make sure they get passed on.”

Curran knows the dealership business, having grown up under his father, Gary Newman’s tutelage. Gary Newman had seen the ups and downs of not only the automotive industry but also the challenges of owning a dealership.

After working at GM, he eventually purchased the Rick Chevrolet dealership in downtown Cedarburg in 1978, and moved it out to its current location in the town of Cedarburg a few years later.

“I mowed the lawn, I washed the cars,” he said of growing up at Newman Chevrolet. “In fact, we like to say that I actually started ‘below the bottom’ because one of my jobs was to clean out the drain below our service department. I definitely did learn the ropes, and I think it was important to gain the respect of the people here by doing that.”

He said those cumulative experiences helped develop the skills he needed to continue the established dealership into a second generation of ownership.

The automotive industry is an interesting one. Though an automobile is a big-ticket purchase, the same car can be purchased from any dealership. What makes a dealership stand out from its competitors, particularly those under the same brand umbrella, is the service.

“One of our big differentiators for us is that so many of our employees have been here a long time,” he said. “I think our customers really appreciate that when they come back for service or to purchase that next vehicle, they see the same faces. Our repeat and referral business and our customer loyalty is exceptionally high in the industry.”

Newman Chevrolet primarily draws its customer base from central Ozaukee County. The dealership’s nomination for the OED award actually came from Eric Ryer, assistant administrator and clerk for the town of Cedarburg.

“We actually know Eric both on a business level and through the town activities we support, but we just feel that’s part of being a good community leader,” he said. “It was very flattering that he felt we were worthy of this award.”

Newman Chevrolet is a longtime supporter of community activities. During the past year, the dealership donated $60,000 to more than 100 charitable recipients, including a $25,000 donation to the new bandshell in Cedar Creek Park.

“First of all, that’s a park I grew up and spent a lot of time playing in,” said Curran. “But that effort really epitomizes what Cedarburg is about. We’ve also been active with the Cedarburg- Grafton Rotary Club for many years, and we got behind that to mark the club’s 50th anniversary, too.”

Curran said the dealership has also made it a recent priority to support the automotive program at Cedarburg High School.

“I was approached by someone from my own neighborhood in hopes that he could obtain some chemicals for the program that the school didn’t have,” he said. “It really opened my eyes to the fact that the program was on the brink of extinction.”

Curran worked with then-Principal Jeff Nelson and current Cedarburg Superintendent Todd Bugnacki, as well as fellow industry partners, to give the program the support it needed.

“We’ve really committed to ensuring that the program is there for students,” he said. “Our industry is screaming for auto technicians, who can make a very good living in this field. It’s great to see the support this program has had during the past three years.”

This support also ensures that a new generation of employees and customers will be a part of Newman Chevrolet’s future. Curran is confident in Newman Chevrolet’s future.

“My dad sold the dealership in 2009, which was right at the time when GM dealerships were closing all over the place,” he said. “He asked me about 10 times if I really wanted to buy it. I wanted to take it over for two reasons: Because of the employees and the community. I never wavered once in that decision.”