TRAVERSE CITY – Employees show genuine smiles when Otto Belovich strolls through Cherry Capital’s collision center.
Customers who return for their next cars smile when they see him in the lot.
“It makes it a lot easier when they come in because they know we’ll take care of them,” Belovich said. “I think that is so important. You can sell the first car, service sells the rest. If you don’t take care of them in the service department they’ll never come back.”
Belovich is 71. He owns two car dealerships, Cherry Capital and Traverse Motors, and employs 125 people to sell, lease and fix cars.
Selling cars may be Belovich’s destiny. He came to the U.S. from Austria when he was 10 years old with just two English words – “car” and “money.”
His family landed in New York City, moved to a farm in upstate New York and ended up in a Yugoslavian community in Connecticut, where Belovich’s Yugoslavian father knew the Catholic priest.
Belovich joined the U.S Air Force in 1961 and ended his stint with a tour at the Empire Air Force Station in 1965. He met his wife Kathy while at the station, and soon started work at a car dealership on Front Street.
He has been in the industry ever since. He saw customers flip from shunning imported cars to embracing them and knows what keeps modern customers coming to dealerships rather than buying cars online.
“You can do everything you want on the Internet, except you can’t drive the car,” Belovich said.
There are other principles that keep customers coming back to Cherry Capital and Traverse Motors.
T.G. Galligan, a sales and leasing consultant who started at Cherry Capital before Belovich bought the business in 1994, said Belovich keeps his employees happy, which leads to happy customers. He barbecues for the employees a few times a year, is almost always at one of the dealerships and is part of the team.