Being a single-point dealership is a family tradition for Leson Chevrolet in Harvey, La., and the dealer has no plans to tinker with a good thing.
Leson Chevrolet was established as a single-line dealership in 1931. After weathering the Depression, World War II and the daily strains of decades of business, it continues to sell only Chevrolets.
Dealer Donald Trapp says handling only Chevrolet vehicles from one location is part of the culture of the business his family has built over the past 70 years. 'I've been a single-point dealer all my life,' he says.
Trapp's grandfather, Peter Leson, formed the dealership. Leson's son, Peter, and Trapp's father, Heinke Trapp, also were involved in the startup.
Throughout its history, Leson Chevrolet's employee roster has read like a genealogy chart. Donald Trapp has shared work time at the dealership with family members that have included his parents, aunts, sister and brother.
In 1965, Trapp became the dealer. Today, his general manager is his daughter, Lisa Rebowe, 42, and the used-car manager is his son, Peter Trapp, 40.
Rebowe, who is in charge of day-to-day operations, says there is an advantage to running a single-point dealership. 'You can concentrate more on the line you have. If we put in another line, it would divert some attention from Chevrolet,' she says.
The obvious disadvantage, her father points out, is that 'naturally, if you have another (line), if one falls off, there is another one there that can carry you.'
Leson's sales last year averaged about 150 new cars and 100 used vehicles a month.
Big truck niche
Trapp says Chevrolet requires that only its product be handled at the location, and that's fine with him. He says there are no plans to expand to another facility that could host a different franchise. 'There's nothing available that I would want,' he says.
Leson doesn't face a big threat from area competitors, according to Rebowe. 'We don't have a megadealer that's in direct competition with us,' she says, and, therefore, the dealership isn't hampered by its single-line philosophy.
Trapp points out that Leson has established a niche as holding the only Chevrolet medium-duty truck franchise in the New Orleans area. The dealership doesn't sell a lot of medium-duties, he says, but the service shop is busy.
Trapp says his experience in working with family members has taught him some valuable lessons in running the single-point dealership with his children. There were aspects of the management style in the old days that he has been careful not to repeat.
'I had a lot of restrictions because there were a lot of family members in the business,' he says. For example, it could be difficult to get approval from an aunt to spend money on a promotion he thought could help boost sales. 'It was good to be somewhat conservative, but they were a little bit too conservative.
'I always said that if I have any children who want to come into this business, and I appoint them as managers, I'm going to allow them to do their jobs,' Trapp says. 'And so far, I have.'
When Rebowe or Peter Trapp come to their father with a promotion idea, he gives it careful consideration, the dealer says. 'I don't think I've ever turned them down on any promotion. If I think it's worthwhile, I say, `Let's give it a shot.' It seems it's worked out more often than not.'
There has been no announcement of succession plans that could see the children taking over their father's duties. At 69, Trapp says he has no retirement plans, and no changes in his children's duties are on the immediate horizon.
'Everybody's young here, so we'll keep it going like it is,' he says. 'We've got something good going, why change it?'
While their roles have not been announced if their father leaves the business, Rebowe and her brother plan to continue the family tradition. Both have been at the dealership about 10 years, not counting the summer jobs while they were growing up.
Rebowe, a certified public accountant, says there always is a family member on site to keep an eye on the operation. Having a family run dealership, she adds, 'is beneficial in the sense that, say I'm not here or my father's not here, you know that there's always a member of the family on the premises looking after things.'