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