DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
LAMPASAS — Lee Hoffpauir can’t really nail down from where his penchant for selling came. Sure his father owned a car dealership when Lee was a kid growing up in Lampasas, but the elder Hoffpauir was more into the finance side of the business than the sales portion.
But Lee recalled his early forays into sales as a youth.
“When I was 8 or 10, I had a lemonade stand,” he said. “And then I’d pick mustang grapes and sell them door to door. I’ve been selling as long as I can remember. It’s something I really enjoy doing, still do today.”
Which is a good thing being that he’s the owner of several car dealerships and businesses bearing the Hoffpauir name. The company, started by his father, James Hoffpauir, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The elder Hoffpauir, who passed away in 2007, purchased a Lampasas Chevy dealership on Sept. 25, 1964. After that purchase, James Hoffpauir expanded into Burnet in 1984 (with Dan Shrader), purchased another dealership in in 1989 and added a Marble Falls location in 1989.
In 2005, after growing up in the business, Lee Hoffpauir stepped in and purchased his the Marble Falls dealership of his sister, Sue Harton, and then basically purchased his father’s dealerships as well. The move to owner wasn’t unprecedented since Lee’s first foray into the automotive business started when he was probably still in elementary school.
“I started working in the Lampasas dealership during the summers when I was 10 years old,” he said. “Dad would find the nastiest, dirties jobs he could find for me to do.”
Eventually, Hoffpauir worked his way up through the business with stops in almost every department — if not all of them — on his way to running a dealership in 1997 as a 26-year old.
And while he owns dealerships and businesses bearing his name, Lee Hoffpauir is the first person to tell folks he isn’t a one-man show. In fact, he’s quick to point out an important lesson he learned from his father as a businessman, one he continues to follow.
“I learned from my dad to surround yourself with good people,” he said. “And if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of you.”
Several of the Hoffpauir’s employees are 20-plus-year veterans, including a few with more than 40 years. Hoffpauir gave a nod to Wayland Weslie, who joined the Lampasas dealership in 1964 and, though in his 80s, still comes in on a part-time basis.
The tenet appears to bear fruit as the business has expanded to not only include car dealerships but also ATV and outdoor sales. Hoffpauir added Polaris sales, and its become the fastest-growing aspect of the business. Last year, Lee Hoffpauir Polaris Ranger was the No. 1 dealer in the nation, and probably the world.
He transformed the Burnet location into an outdoor store specializing in tractors, trailers, mowers and similar equipment.
Along with the great staff, the company remains committed to the communities the dealerships serve, whether it’s through supporting programs and events or simply taking care of customers.
While the heart of the business is sales and service, the industry model has experienced a shake-up or two. One of the biggest game-changers was the advent of the Internet.
“It used to be nobody would drive 100 miles to buy a car. Back in the day, you wouldn’t think of going somewhere other than your local dealer to buy a car. But now with the Internet, you can look at 10 different dealerships and compare,” he said. Instead of watching customers and potential customers head off to other dealers in other cities, Hoffpauir and his staff put the Internet to work for them as well, and now people can “browse the lot” from the comfort of their home.
Hoffpauir said price is only part of the car-buying experience. Customer service still factors as a major player.
“I think what keeps people coming back to us or bringing them to us is customer service,” he said. “We really try to take care of people.”
Sometimes, this means taking a call in the middle of the night from a customer whose car won’t start or has broken down on the side of the road. Or it could even mean a road trip.
“If I have somebody who’s been a customer for a number of years call and say their kid’s car is broke and they’re at college, that may mean loading up a car on a truck and heading for College Station,” Hoffpauir said. “I’ve done that before. People appreciate knowing they can call us or come by, and we’ll take care of them.”
As for the future, Hoffpauir doesn’t have a crystal ball and doesn’t know what it will bring, but he does know one thing he, his staff and his dealerships will do.
“We’ll just roll with it,” he said with a laugh.
Go to www.hautogroup.com for a list of Lee Hoffpauir’s dealerships, locations and services.