The year 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of Schomp Automotive, owned and operated by the same Denver family since its founding in 1941. That year, you could buy a gallon of gas for 12 cents and a new car for $850. It was also the year the U.S. entered World War II following the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor.
In 1941, Lisa Schomp's maternal grandfather, Roy Weaver, opened a small Englewood gas station with a couple of Oldsmobiles for sale out front and named it Arapahoe Motors. The company would eventually include son-in-law, Ralph Schomp, a graduate of the school of architecture at the University of Oregon and World War II veteran. Ralph bought the dealership in 1955 and re-named it Ralph Schomp Oldsmobile.
Ralph Schomp was known as an honorable, honest man whose philosophy was "never let the customer down." In 1970, he added Honda and BMW to the Schomp automotive family. The family business outgrew its Englewood location and in the mid-80's was moved to its current address at 5700 South Broadway in Littleton.
Like Father, Like Daughter
Born in Denver in 1952, the fourth of Ralph and Kay Schomp's six daughters, Lisa knew early on that she wanted to follow her father into the car business. Says Lisa, "None of my sisters wanted to work at the dealership except me."
Convinced Lisa wouldn't make it in the male-dominated auto industry, Ralph insisted she begin as a "coffee greeter girl" in a mini skirt serving coffee and donuts to customers. After two "humiliating years", she moved into sales, then transferred to service, "The place I enjoyed the most, because I've always liked helping people." After working in virtually all departments at the dealership, Lisa was just the second woman to attend what was then called the "General Motors Dealers' Sons School" in Flint, Michigan.
Lisa ultimately earned her father's blessing just prior to his death in 1988. She and her husband, Mark Wallace (whom Lisa considers her "anchor in the storm") took the reins of the dealership -- Lisa as president, and Mark as general manager. They completed a formal buyout in 1996.
One Price?the Engine that Drives
the Schomp Train
In 1993, Lisa introduced her "One Price, No Hassle" business philosophy to the Denver market. Embarrassed by unethical, high-pressure sales tactics used by most auto dealerships, she changed the car-buying experience into an enjoyable one based on honesty, dignity and respect for both customer and sales consultants alike.
In 2002, BMW North America awarded Schomp Colorado's first MINI franchise based on the dealership's longstanding reputation for customer service, sales volume and community service.
In 2005, Schomp finalized the purchase of Fay Myers Motorcycle World in Greenwood Village ? a blending of two of Denver's oldest, most respected family-owned companies.
Driving Force in the Auto Industry
Lisa Schomp was chosen a national Top-Five Finalist for the 2007 TIME Magazine Quality Dealer Award ? the auto industry's most prestigious award for car dealers. Her father, Ralph, was Colorado's TIME Magazine Quality Dealer Award nominee 30 years earlier!
Lisa attributes her success to her father, who never intended to be in the car business. She says "He was a designer and architect, but it was the 1940's and times were tough after the war. Honesty, integrity and family were everything to him. He believed strongly that if you don't put your customers and employees first, you are not living honorably".
Listed among the 2010 "100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry" by Automotive News, Lisa also credits her mother, Katherine (Kay), whom she describes as a "strong woman who taught me to have convictions, beliefs and opinions." Kay served on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education for 10 years, fought for the advancement of women, and helped found the Denver School of the Arts.
A Good Neighbor for Seven Decades
Schomp Automotive has supported a variety of community causes over the last 70 years. A significant percentage of the company's marketing dollars are earmarked for public education, Colorado State Patrol's "Alive at 25" safe driving program, The Children's Hospital Burn Unit, and the Schomp BMW Denver Polo Classic benefiting the Active 20-30 Children's Foundation. Schomp has been the Presenting Sponsor of Littleton's annual Fire Truck Parade & Muster since its founding in 1985.
The year 2008 presented Lisa Schomp with the biggest challenge of her career?opening a state-of-the-art, $22 million, 86,000-square-foot BMW showroom at Lucent Boulevard and C-470 in Highlands Ranch?at the height of one of this country's most critical economic downturns.
Introducing the Next Generation
During the last year, Lisa Schomp and Mark Wallace made the somewhat bittersweet decision to begin handing over the reins of the dealership to their adult children, Aaron, Tyler and Logan Wallace, all of whom are owners of, and are employed by, Schomp Automotive.
Mentored by both of his parents, Aaron has been in charge of most of the day-to-day operations for the entire dealership group since 2008. Says Lisa, "I didn't want my kids to go through the years of training I was forced to endure. Like me, Aaron knew early on that he wanted to run the dealership, so why put roadblocks in his way? We're very proud of what he's accomplished in such a short amount of time, especially with so many adverse economic situations to overcome."
The 27-year old has inherited the qualities which have made Lisa Schomp and Mark Wallace a powerhouse couple in the auto industry -- from Mark's keen behind-the-scenes business acumen, to Lisa's compassionate sense of community and visionary approach to automotive sales and service. It was Aaron who, at age 20, recommended purchasing Fay Myers Motorcycle World when he learned it was on the market.
Says Aaron, "I found out early that there were people with both low and high expectations of me when I took over the dealership. My main challenge is trying to not prove either one wrong". He adds, "I think it's naturally easier for me to push change in the dealership, because I'm part of a generation where change is constant. We work in an industry where keeping up with trends and technology is key, and being open-minded will keep us ahead of the curve".
Says the woman who worked her way from coffee greeter girl to CEO of the #1-Ranked Woman-Owned Business in Colorado,
'You can't really control what life throws at you. You have to use it to become better?it's what family businesses are about: commitment to your family, to your business, to your community.'