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How Auto Dealers Build Strong Local Communities

Published January 29, 2023


Sheryll Poe, Profile Picture, 175x175

Sheryll Poe


“It doesn’t cost anything extra to be nice,” according to two dealers who took part in a heart-warming panel session on Sunday’s Live Stage at the NADA Show 2023.

2023 TIME Dealer of the Year winner Gary Rome and Brandon Tomes of the Tomes Auto Group talked about how getting involved in local charities has helped them integrate into their communities, attract new customers and retain dealership employees.

“Creating a store with these values is the fastest, easiest way to set yourself apart from you competition in your community,” said Tomes. Tomes said he started getting involved in the community when his family acquired a Subaru dealership in McKinney, Texas in 2009. At the time, Subaru was a relatively unknown brand in that area, so “we started working with local charities to make sure we had a presence in the community.”

When Subaru started allowing dealerships to donate to hometown charities as part of its annual Share the Love event, Brandon Tomes Subaru choose a local Samaritan Inn., which provides help and services to get homeless people back on their feet. Within  a few years, Brandon Tomes Subaru became one of the first Subaru dealerships to achieve 90 percent plus donations specifically to a hometown charity.  Now, Tomes’ dealerships are large enough to add a second hometown charity to the Share the Love event, ManeGait Therapeutic, which helps special needs children and young adults learn to ride horses.

Today, the breadth and variety of Tomes’ charitable initiatives is impressive, but he points out that it’s okay to start small and build up as you can. “It doesn’t cost anything to put a box in your showroom and send an email to your customers and employees letting them know you’re collecting donations,” he noted.

For Gary Rome, participating in local charities is a chance for team building, with many of the dealership’s charitable events taking place during afterhours. “We all want to be around each other and it’s created a great culture. I don’t feel like I have to do these things, I get to do them,” he said.

While Rome is known and has been honored for his national giving, including his dealership’s annual Trees of Hope event, which supports the Ronald McDonald House, he also touted starting small and local. To celebrate the recent National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, his employees made 50 sandwiches and drove them over to a local church to distribute to the hungry. “When I think about my legacy and what I want to be known for, I want to be known for giving back to my community,” Rome said.

To hear more from Tomes and Rome on how being involved with local charities have helped their businesses, watch the video above and catch up on everything you missed at NADA Show by checking out the Livestream from the Live Stage.

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