Photo: Wayne Heard
In 2001, Gary Young sat waiting in the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for his golf partner to arrive — by helicopter. It landed on the course, and out hopped Tiger Woods, who was, at the time, a spokesman for Buick. Young was the marque’s top salesman and had won a round of golf apiece with Woods and his then-coach, Butch Harmon.
“It was a great, great time, and not too many people can say they’ve done that,” Young says. “He was great and he was a gentleman and we had a lot of fun together. I picked up some tips and I think Tiger picked up a few too. Butch gave me some tips as well. It was a great experience.”
It was a highlight of a long career that began in 1967 at Royer Buick in Harrisburg, Pa., and continues at Klick Lewis, a Palmyra, Pa., General Motors dealership where Young joined his son, Todd, eight years ago.
Young, who started selling cars in 1967 at the age of 17, at Royer Buick in Harrisburg, Pa., where a friend worked as a sales manager. “Thank God they opened the door to me and said, ‘This kid’s got potential. Let’s give him a whirl,” he says. “It’s been a great business that’s given me a great life.”
He attributes his phenomenally successful career to a policy of always being honest with his customers and doing his best to stick by them no matter what ups and downs might come along. He further notes that his success really comes down to “loving my business and loving my clients. You’ve got to have respect.”
That mantra has paid off with a following of loyal customers who refuse to buy from anyone else. In his best years, he often averaged more than 40 units. After his first employer unexpectedly lost its Buick franchise in the midst of the GM downsizing, Young brought his work ethic and clientele to Klick Lewis, where his son, Todd, was working as a salesperson.
“Dad’s a machine, man,” Todd Young says. “He’s like a revolving door. He’s in that same neighborhood and he has a continuous influx of customers. It’s a lot of referrals, word of mouth and repeat business. They wait for hours. Hours. I knew my dad was good, but I didn’t know how good he was and how wonderful his reputation was. It just impresses me every day.”
Today, although Gary Young is nearing retirement age, he isn’t ready to retire. He is looking forward to hitting his 50-year mark and then possibly reducing his workweek to three or four days from seven — although dealerships are closed on Sundays in Pennsylvania, Young makes “special appointments” where he’ll either meet clients at the dealership to let them look at a vehicle without talking numbers, or he’ll pick up a car and drive it out to them to examine, then handle all the paperwork the next day — and enjoying some hard-earned leisure time.
“I owe my wife, Sue, who’s put up with a lot all these years,” he says. “I owe her some trips, some vacations. We’ve been married 48 years. I was just getting into the business. She was part of the success. She knew I would never be home, but she hung in there did a good job with Mike [his second son, who also works at Klick Lewis] and Todd, and allowed me to work and become a professional.”