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Chacon Autos received the Baylor University Institute of Family Business Founders Award for 2010.
The award is given to companies who have adapted to present and future markets while maintaining the identity and original concept of the founder.
William Chaney and partner Howard Conway opened Chacon Autos in Dallas in 1958. The pair combined their last names to get the name. A third partner, James Holt, joined soon after the store opened.
Together the partners owned and operated the business together for more than 30 years, acquiring two more locations in the process.
“I feel like I grew up with Chacon,” William's son Gary Chaney said. “I remember going down to the dealership as a kid - and this was back when everyone smoked and they did it indoor. So I remember the place smelling like cigarette and cigar smoke. There was a lot of old office equipment and everything was done with paper and pen.”
The partnership divided up its assets in 1986, giving each one his own store.
William Chaney’s store retained the Chacon name, Howard Conway’s store became Public Auto Sales and James Holt’s store became Sunny’s Auto Sales, which later changed its name to Auto USA.
Gary Chaney and his brother, Darrell, joined their dad in the business the next year.
The brother took control of the operations in 1992.
From there the dealership began to grow.
The Chaneys bought eight acres of property in neighboring Rowlett, Texas, in 1993 and opens a sattelite store. Operations in Grand Prairie, Lewisville and Haltom City followed over the next decade.
In 2003, an investment company bought the Rowlett property. The Chaneys used the proceeds to expand their business into San Antonio, Texas, and move the main Dallas operation to a new location.The original store still runs as a dealership.
The Chaneys entered the new-car business in December 2004 with the purchase of a Suzuki store. They moved it to a new location and renamed it Chacon Suzuki.
A second Chacon Suzuki opened in May 2007.
Through all of its growth and expansion, Chacon Autos has remained true to its original mission and a family business.
Although William Caney passed away about a year ago, his Christine Chaney still works six days a week at the family business, as do Gary and Darrell. Gary’s daughter, Stefani Musick, and son Greg work at the stores, along with three of Darrell’s boys – Josh, Jake and Joey.
Keeping the business successful for more than 50 years has been thanks to valuable lessons William Chaney taught his sons.
“He taught me to treat all people equally and fairly – customers and employees,” Gary Chaney said. “Just because a customer has fallen on hard times and has bad credit doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated poorly, they still deserve the same customer service as everyone else. And with employees, it doesn’t matter if someone makes $11 an hour or $50 an hour, they should all be treated with respect because they are a valuable part of our company.”
Chacon Autos has struggled at times, but the Chaney family sees challenges as opportunities.
“The recent economy has brought on some interesting challenges for us. But we’ve managed to adapt and still grow and make money,” said Gary. “At our new car stores, we began selling more used cars because people just weren’t buying new cars. Inventory was somewhat hard to find at the auctions, so we had to get creative - we went to several online auctions, ordered them from out of state, (and) we also used this time as a positive. With many people looking for jobs, we were able to hire some really great, hardworking people that have been wonderful assets to our company.”
Chacon is continues to grow and exceed sales expectations. The stores finished out 2009 with more than $60 million in sales and $85 million in notes receivable.
Along with his business practices, William Chaney left his family a number of personal lessons and favorite memories.
“My dad was the most personable person I know. He never met a stranger. Whether it be a customer, an employee, a banker, another dealer at an auction, or a complete stranger, he would always strike up a conversation with them,” Gary Chaney said. “Looking at them talk, you’d think they had been best friends since grade school.”
With the third generation in place, the Chaneys plan on keeping that spirit alive for years to come.