If you've bought a car in Lawrence in the last two decades, chances are you know the name Dale Willey.
Known locally from his radio commercials as the ``automobile man,'' the Lawrence car dealer is well-regarded among his peers, recently serving a stint as president of the Kansas Motor Car Dealers Assn.
And Willey, president of Dale Willey Pontiac-Cadillac-GMC Trucks, also is well thought of in the community -- he is the 1993 recipient of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's Business Person of the Year award.
``The Business Person of the Year Award is given to a small-business owner that's been successful in growing his or her business while at the same time taking an active role in his or her community and state,`` said Gary Toebben, chamber president.
``I FEEL honored and very flattered about it,'' Willey said recently as he sat in the show room of his dealership at 2840 Iowa.
Willey, 51, has been selling cars in Lawrence for nearly 23 years, since he opened his first Pontiac-Cadillac dealership at the northwest corner of Eighth and New Hampshire.
In 1974, he moved the dealership to 23rd Street at a spot now across the street from Dillon's grocery store, which now houses University Bookstore.
In the summer of 1979, he bought the land for his current dealership location on South Iowa Street and moved in April 1, 1980.
BESIDES CHANGING locations during the years, Willey also has added and subtracted other makes of vehicles. In 1975, he added the American Motors AMC-Jeep line. And he picked up the Renault line as of part of that franchise arrangement in 1979.
But in 1981, American Motors was having financial problems. So he terminated the franchise with them, but continued with the Pontiac-Cadillac makes.
And in September 1990, Willey purchased the GMC Truck franchise from Jim Ellena and added that.
``Our sales volume has gone up a bunch in the last 22 years. We've grown with the market,'' he said. The reasons are varied, he said.
``The product line is, fortunately for us, very strong. They're well-accepted in the market,'' he said. ``There are considerably more people in our market area, which is all of Douglas County and a little bit in Leavenworth, in the Tonganoxie area.''
Sales have increased as those areas' populations have grown, he said.
ALSO, DEALERSHIPS have been consolidated during the last seven to eight years, which contributes to sales.
``When we added to the GMC Truck franchise, that increased our sales because GMC Truck does not compete directly with Pontiac or Cadillac,'' he said.
During 1992, the dealership had a good year, he said.
``And 1993 has started out considerably better than 1992,'' he said.
Willey has been involved with the chamber for 22 years as a member of various committees.
During the years, he's also participated in several civic clubs and has been a member of Plymouth Congregational Church. For about seven years, he was involved as a board member of O'Connell Youth Ranch. He has been an officer on the board of the Kansas Motor Car Dealers Assn. for the last five years.
He remains optimistic about the future of his business.
``I think the car business is solid,'' he said.