Johnson claims top honor
Dan Johnson traced his entrepreneurial spirit to his parents.
“My parents were very hard-working folks with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. My mom and dad owned and operated a custom countertop and cabinetry business in town,” Johnson recalled. “However, when the box stores started carrying standard designs at affordable prices, it caused my parents to have to shut down the business and sell our home. With the sale of the house, my dad settled the outstanding debts, bought a piece of land just up the road and built a new house with his bare hands. My mom still lives there to this day. It’s the “family home” and is a constant reminder of my dad’s strong work ethic and ‘never-give-up’ spirit.”
That hard-working and fierce spirit led Johnson to be named the 2023 National Quality Dealer of the Year winner. Johnson was honored in the closing ceremony at the NIADA Accelerate 2023 Convention and Expo.
“What an absolute honor. I’m humbled. Everyone who was a finalist deserves this award,” Johnson said. “I’m truly humbled to be the recipient.”
Johnson was one of 14 finalists for the award to be recognized.
J ohnson is the Vice President of the NYIADA and is the Region I Vice President for the NIADA Board of Directors. He is the 2023 NYIADA Quality Dealer of the Year.
He also serves on numerous civic boards and groups. He was named the Volunteer of the Year by the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County in 2021.
“Dan is an inspiration to all the dealers in New York, not only for being a terrific businessman but his integrity,” said Dana Bress, President of the NYIADA.
The NYIADA Executive Director Paula Frendel praised Johnson’s expertise and guidance through COVID-19 and his many contributions to the board.
“We are so proud of him. This is well deserved,” Frendel said. “He’s been a true asset to our association in New York.”
Leadership comes natural to Johnson, who served on the student senate and later as a student trustee at Jamestown Community College, while earning his associate degree.
He met his wife Emelee, who he said is the “rock of this family” in college. They shared a psychology class but truly began to know each other while working together at Jamestown Savings Bank and attending the same Bible study.
“Emelee and I became good friends ourselves after just a short period of time. It was easy for me to fall for her, but I’m still not sure how I convinced her that we should start dating. One of lif
e’s mysteries that worked out in my favor,” Johnson said.
While working at the local bank he met Rod Weidner, the owner of litehouse Auto, at Bible study. Johnson went to work for Weidner in 2002.
“While I was excited about ‘all the money’ I was about to make in the car business, my mom was less than thrilled that I was leaving my bank job to become a used car salesman,” Johnson said. ”We still laugh about that to this day.”
After joining litehouse, the dealership experienced a hard time, and Weidner had to trim the staff to Johnson and himself. It was a time of growing and learning for Johnson, while being part of a two-man operation.
“During that time I did a little bit of everything at the store – sales, paperwork, finance, washing cars, etc. No task was off-limits,” Johnson said. “While it may have been difficult at the time, I am grateful now for that season because I learned so much about the dealership and the auto business as a whole.”
He rose to general manager in 2009.
A few years later, he began to develop a strong desire to run his own dealership. It was partially fueled by the birth of twin girls in 2009, and the desire for added freedom to be there for his family.
“Unfortunately, the demands of the car business and family time don’t often line up,” Johnson said. “I wanted the freedom to be home in time for dinner, or take vacations, or attend recitals, or whatever the situation might be. I wanted to be my own boss and control my own destiny.”
After looking to start his own dealership and not being able to land a property, a conversation started with Weidner, who was looking to retire. Johnson bought the dealership in 2013.
“We made the arrangements and settled on a price and in October 2013 Rod handed me the keys to the building. We haven’t looked back since,” Johnson said.
The dealership now averages $4.7 million in retail sales and $2.68 million in wholesale under the motto “Cleaner cars, lower prices, better service.”
“My wife (Emelee) and I, and our entire team work hard to build a dealership to serve our community and that is transparent to our customers,” Johnson said. “This award is a culmination of all that hard work.”
The finalists for the NQD award also included:
Alabama: Corey Braxton
Arizona: Jared Halsted
Carolinas: Kevin Pendergrass
Colorado: Jim Reitz
Florida: leighanne Thompson
Georgia: David Mosley
Michigan: Vincent Law
New Jersey: Andreew Glaser
Ohio: Josh Sellers
Pennsylvania: Mike Dorazio
Tennessee: Scott Cass
Texas: Greg Reine
Virginia: Matt mcmurray