Au­to­motive Fam­ily

A top South­west Florida car dealer sees a bright fu­ture

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY KEN HAG­GERTY

Shift­ing Gears

Frank H. Galeana sits in his of­fice over­look­ing a 25-acre plot of gleam­ing cars. With an in­ven­tory that em­braces both Amer­i­can and for­eign makes, the com­pany’s vice pres­i­dent can be con­tent that the Galeana Au­to­motive Group re­mains strong. Founded by his fa­ther, Frank, in the ’70s, the com­pany has grown from hum­ble be­gin­nings to be­come an un­de­ni­ably prof­itable car deal­er­ship. With ad­di­tional branches in Ge­or­gia and the com­pany’s spir­i­tual home, Van Dyke Dodge in Warren, Michi­gan, the fa­ther of two can’t be blamed for mo­ments of con­tent­ment. How­ever, don’t let the Michi­gan na­tive’s up­beat na­ture fool you. Be­neath the bon­homie lies a gritty de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­tinue in the foot­steps of his fa­ther and con­tinue a car deal­er­ship that re­mains the envy of his com­peti­tors.

“I’m not a tena­cious busi­ness man,” ad­mits Galeana. “I’m look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture of this com­pany, but you can’t rest on your lau­rels. Com­pla­cency is some­thing I never want to be­friend.”

Galeana ju­nior is per­haps more adept than the ma­jor­ity of deal­er­ship own­ers in adapt­ing to the va­garies of the motor in­dus­try thanks in large part to his fa­ther, whose busi­ness acu­men and phi­los­o­phy re­main at the heart of the com­pany to this day. “My fa­ther passed in 2010,” says Galeana. “His strength, in my opin­ion, was that he would silently press his bril­liance upon oth­ers. He made lit­tle sug­ges­tions, planted the seeds, and let ideas grow.

“More than any­thing, my fa­ther al­lowed man­agers to be man­agers,” says Galeana. “He would be there for them if there was a prob­lem, but he would re­mind his man­agers that, ‘This is your baby, so take care of it.’ He achieved a great deal with a de­gree of longevity and loy­alty from his staff that I’ve never wit­nessed in any other com­pany. That’s what makes the Galeana com­pany so suc­cess­ful.”

A chip off the old (en­gine) block, Galeana be­came fas­ci­nated with his fa­ther’s busi­ness and from an early age was smit­ten with the auto in­dus­try. “I knew ex­actly what I wanted to do since I was ten years old,” he ex­plains. “I would go and work with my fa­ther and I loved it. He al­ways made his job seem ex­cit­ing and brand new. His work­ing days were never the same.”

How­ever, the Galeana com­pany, for all its suc­cess, had to over­come in­tol­er­ance and racist at­ti­tudes, as Galeana ex­plains. “My dad had a lot of dif­fi­cul­ties set­ting up busi­nesses in gen­eral when he was start­ing out, over­com­ing pos­si­ble racism,” says Galeana.

Frank H. Galeana con­tin­ues to steer the suc­cess­ful

group of auto deal­er­ships his fa­ther founded.

“He was from Mex­ico City, and his mother was from Puerto Rico, so he had Latin blood. At the time, Lati­nos were not as es­teemed as they are now. A lot of peo­ple thought he was Ital­ian, and he never fought that at­ti­tude in the be­gin­ning.”

Af­ter serv­ing in the U.S. Army Air Forces, Galeana started his ca­reer with Ford in the mid-1950s. Nearly two decades later, which in­cluded a stint head­ing up Ford’s in­ter­ests in Spain and Africa, his de­sire to be­come his own boss had hit a stum­bling block. “My fa­ther wanted to be a dealer with Ford” but didn’t get that op­por­tu­nity, says Galeana. “So even­tu­ally he . . . went to the Chrysler Cor­po­ra­tion, who of­fered him a busi­ness deal.

“His dif­fi­culty was se­cur­ing his first fran­chise,” ex­plains Galeana. “But by the mid-70s he owned Van Dyke Dodge in Warren. Af­ter that, he never looked back and con­tin­ued to be suc­cess­ful for the rest of his life.”

Among the many ac­com­plish­ments Galeana se­nior achieved through­out his life were a nom­i­na­tion for the 1972 TIME Magazine Dealer of the Year Award and play­ing a none-too-small part in help­ing the Chrysler Cor­po­ra­tion ob­tain its first govern­ment loan. When the Chrysler Cor­po­ra­tion Loan Guar­an­tee Act of 1979 was signed by Pres­i­dent Carter in 1980, Galeana was in the Oval Of­fice to wit­ness the oc­ca­sion.

But Galeana’s life pos­sessed a dedication to his lo­cal com­mu­nity. Speaking of his fa­ther’s spir­i­tual and phil­an­thropic na­ture, his son ex­plains the deep com­mit­ment to the Fort My­ers com­mu­nity for which his fa­ther be­came renowned. “My fa­ther would give any­one the shirt off his back if he felt they would bet­ter them­selves through his ac­tions,” he says. “But he wouldn’t give you his shirt if he felt it was just go­ing to be used in a fraud­u­lent way.

“A few years ago, he had reached a point in his life when he wanted to start giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity,” Galeana con­tin­ues, “and he asked me to find a char­ity he felt was cred­i­ble and would uti­lize his dona­tions in the most ef­fi­cient way.” From those ini­tial in­quiries, Galeana and his fa­ther’s wife, Jerry, dis­cov­ered the Catholic Char­i­ties, Dio­cese of Venice to be the per­fect fit.

“I like to call them the ‘silent saints,’” says Galeana. “They don’t go toot­ing their horn. If you’re will­ing to help your­self, they are will­ing to help you. My fa­ther shared that phi­los­o­phy, and now I’m con­tin­u­ing his legacy, be­cause he truly be­lieved that char­ity makes a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence to those in need in the lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

Galeana Au­to­motive Group, Fort My­ers, galeanachr­ysler­dodge, 888-875-8612 Ken Hag­gerty is a reg­u­lar cor­re­spon­dent for the Sara­sota Her­aldTri­bune. A Maine na­tive, he also spent many years as a jour­nal­ist in Lon­don, work­ing as an ed­i­tor and writer on a broad range of sport and life­style mag­a­zines.

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