President, Capitol Auto Group
Alex Casebeer is no Newtonian physicist, yet to hear the story of how both he and his older brother, Matthew, returned home to Salem, Ore., to eventually become fourth-generation dealers is to understand the powerful gravitational pull that the auto industry exerts on many family members and persuades them to return.
“As kids, we were at the stores occasionally, visiting my dad or working a couple hours here and there — picking up cigarette butts or painting parts shelves — to make some money,” Casebeer recalled. The University of San Diego called him to a life away from Salem, away from the familiar three-store, four-franchise campus run by his family.
“I did a bunch of stuff. I was an assistant golf professional, I worked at a ski mountain, helped a guy open a restaurant,” Casebeer said. He lived on the East Coast for a while, but after getting married, the new couple decided “I should probably give the car business a try. I did not want to live with regret.”
Yet he did not return to the family business. “I started selling cars in 2009 in Portland, about an hour away from here. That was by design,” Casebeer said, explaining that his father, Scott Casebeer, wanted him and his brother to learn the difficult work in a dealership from the ground up, not as prodigal sons. “I was going to move back, and he said, ‘Perfect. Just go sell cars somewhere, go apply for a job, get a job, go through that process. Just don’t do it here.’ ”
After getting outside experience, Alex and Matthew did finally return to the family business, with Alex joining the Toyota store as a service adviser and his brother doing a similar job at the Chevrolet-Cadillac store. Over the last five years, their responsibilities grew, and they eventually bought out their father, who is now retired.
For Alex, it wasn’t just the potential for a successful career that drew him back to Salem; it was also the contribution that he could make to his hometown.
“I saw the impact that my dad had in the community with different boards of directors that he was serving on, the financial contributions that he’d made into the city,” Casebeer said. “He helped get a lot of local projects off the ground, and that was equally as exciting to me as potentially owning a business.”
— Larry P. Vellequette