Chris Brunner Celebrates 30 Years with Park Place Dealerships

The automotive industry has evolved in the last 30 years and one local resident has seen incredible changes – from safety and design to elevating the client experience. Chris Brunner joined Park Place Dealerships in 1992 as an assistant sales manager and today, he manages one of the largest Lexus dealerships in the country.

Under Brunner’s leadership, Park Place Lexus Grapevine received a number one national ranking in customer satisfaction and has been recognized as an Elite of Lexus dealer 18 times. In 2005, the Park Place Lexus dealerships in Grapevine and Plano became the first automobile dealerships ever to win the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for quality and organizational performance excellence. 

Brunner has been the General Manager at Park Place Lexus Plano since 2010.

“Chris is the epitome of leadership and customer service,” said Tony Carimi, Park Place Dealerships Managing Director. “He’s built an incredible team at Lexus Plano and is very committed to developing each Member into leaders in their own right.”

Greg Duerr, Lexus Plano Parts Director has worked with Brunner since 1995. “I don’t take that for granted, says Duerr. “Chris has a great sense for what clients expect, and he walks the talk of the Park Place Culture.”

Lexus Plano Finance Director Shiva Olumi recalls, “Chris has been a guide for the 21 years I’ve worked at Park Place. Regardless of the position you hold, he gets to know you and the things that are important to you. He has been the ultimate mentor to me. You see his influence in how pristine everything is when you walk in the Lexus dealership: the white orchids, the attention to detail, the laughter in the halls. He has created an energy and culture of family.” 

Katie Stutts, Brunner’s Administrative Assistant, says, “Chris is a great leader. He possesses a clear vision, is courageous, has integrity, and has a clear focus. Chris is a wonderful coach and always wants his members to succeed. He is a true leader, and we are honored to have him in our lives.” 

Brunner is very involved in supporting the Plano and North Texas communities, including working with Collin County Children’s Advocacy Center; SPCA of Collin County; My Possibilities; Samaritan Inn; Habitat for Humanity, and Plano, Allen and Prosper Teacher of the Year programs and Prize Patrols. When not at work, Chris enjoys spending time with his wife Amie and children Alexa and Camden.

Work hard – Ted Wernimount

Ted was just 24 years old when he joined Park Place 32 years ago. 

“I came to Park Place hoping to get into a company that would allow me to grow and prosper in a great environment and have a long career. Park Place has surpassed all of my expectations. Two things that have impacted all of us is how much Park Place has grown as a company and the technology that is constantly changing.”

Ted’s parents moved his family to Grand Prairie when he was 14 after his father was severely injured in an accident. His mom became the main breadwinner and Texas was a better environment for her career as a registered nurse. 

Ted graduated from South Grand Prairie High and the Wyoming Technical Institute.

“The biggest challenge I face is to stay on top of the ever-changing technology of all of the different makes and models that we repair. When I worked in Mercedes service it was only one manufacturer, but at Bodywerks we repair all of the different makes that we sell in the Park Place family. Having access to all of the manufacturer’s technical information and assistance from team members at the different stores tremendously helps us overcome these challenges.

Ted’s advice for anyone just starting out: “Work hard. Don’t expect anything to be given to you and earn everything that you get. It will benefit you personally throughout your career with Park Place or wherever you are.” “I’m petrified of heights but my daughter and I took an amazing hot air balloon ride in New Mexico that involved rising to 2,000 feet and then descending down into the Rio Grande Gorge until the basket skimmed the Rio Grande River and then back up again. Life lesson: Face your fears and reap the rewards.”

Hard Work Pays Off– Juan Ramirez

Juan Ramirez, 31, started in the Car Wash, then advanced to Valet, Warehouse, Parts Counter, and is now an ASM at Jaguar Land Rover DFW. A native Texan, Juan graduated from South Grand Prairie High School in 2008. 

He’s worked at Park Place for 13 years. “My first impression: It was a great environment. All members are extremely polite! I found all members treated me well and had a service focus.”

Juan resides in Grand Prairie with his wife and two kids. He describes his family as “supportive and very energetic!” His son is 13 and his daughter 7. “My wife and I are very involved with our kids’ sports,” he says. Juan is an avid Texas Rangers fan and helps coach his son’s baseball team. He is also very involved with his daughter’s gymnastics.

“The best thing about working at Park Place are the opportunities. You can move to different departments and take advantage of learning opportunities. New situations can feel risky, but there is always help if needed.” His advice to someone just starting at Park Place: “Listen to everyone who has been there. Hard work pays off. The doors will open for you. Always ask questions. It will make you better.”

Women in Automotive Roundtable

Park Place Corporate recently hosted a Women in Automotive roundtable with more than 100 Members, including women from every dealership, as well as several GMs, and Tony Carimi, Park Place managing director.

Women in Automotive panelists included Porsche Dallas Service Director

Jenny Drummond, who has spent more than 20 years at Park Place; Lexus Plano F&I Director Shiva Olumi, who started as a receptionist at Park Place 21 years ago; Park Place Assistant Controller Jody Monroe, who started 21 years ago as AP/AR Clerk for Motorcars Dallas; and Asbury Automotive Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Dr. Wendy Reynolds-Dobbs. Carolyn Alvey, Vice President at Aardvark Communications, served as moderator. 

Panelists were asked how they “inspire within.” They encouraged attendees to reach out to other Members in their department to demonstrate how their skills can support the entire group. 

When the panelists were asked how they could earn the respect of their male counterparts, there was a common response: “Do your job and do it well. If you don’t know something, admit it and find the answer. People want to help if you acknowledge you need help.” As a final word about women in automotive, special guest Asbury Automotive Group Board of Directors member Maureen Morrison flew in from Atlanta. Ms. Morrison is a former partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she began her career in 1976, and became a partner in 1987. She spoke on her career in finance and why she wanted to serve on the Asbury Board of Directors. “Asbury is committed to making more opportunities for women. We have women leading in Parts and Service departments as well as female General Managers.”

Go for the long haul– Gene Ellison

Gene Ellison always had a thing for Mercedes-Benz cars. 

“While I’m a native Texan, my family moved to Southern California in the late ‘60s where Mercedes were very popular. I would see them on the streets all the time. They were different and sophisticated.”

In the early ‘70s Gene moved to the Rio Grande Valley where his parents bought a farm. “Out of necessity I had to learn how to work on our equipment. I learned a little about diesel engines and got pretty good with them. The saving grace for a young car enthusiast like me was a MB dealership in San Benito. When my girlfriend (and future wife) and I went on dates, I would talk her into stopping by the dealership to check out the cars.”

In 1975, Gene got a job as a mechanic at that dealership, where he was trained by the owner, a Swiss man who had apprenticed at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Stuttgart. “I took to the work quickly and was sent to a number of technical schools. I enjoyed working on what we now call “classic” Mercedes from the ‘50s and ‘60s. We worked in an open-air shop in the sub-tropics, and every time I went to the parts counter, the window would slide open and cool air would flow out. So, in 1977 when a parts position opened up, I jumped at the chance to move inside. A short time later, the parts manager quit, and I got my first job as parts manager.”

In 1990, Gene joined Park Place. “I’ve been privileged to help grow the business and enjoyed meeting the challenges that were part of that growth. Today’s challenges include material shortages in the supply chain. We’ve managed this challenge by aggressively purchasing in advance of demand whenever possible.”

Gene’s advice to someone just starting out: “Sign on, dig in, learn everything about the business you can, think of the client first, and go for the long haul.” Away from work, Gene loves photography and the outdoors. He also has a collection of antique bottles that he started as a kid

Women In Automotive– Inspire Within

Earlier this month we had the pleasure to host over 100+ members at our corporate offices in Las Colinas for a very informative speaker and panel discussion powered by Park Place Women in Automotive. The theme of the event was Inspire Within, and the purpose of the event was to foster communication, inspiration, and motivation for women within the automotive industry.

We learned from four incredibly tenured women on how they navigate their careers in an industry that is traditionally male-dominated along with meshing your two worlds- personal and professional. 

Our attendees also had the honor to listen to Maureen Morrison who has served as a member of the Asbury Automotive Board since January 2019. Ms. Morrison currently serves as a director and Chair of the Audit Committee, and member of both the Nominating & Corporate Governance Committee and Compensation Committee of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc.

Three of our panelists were women who have been with Park Place Dealerships for 21+ years and one recently hired female who just joined the Asbury Automotive company as the Vice President and Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer.

Panelist bios follow below:

  • Jenny Drummond is the Service Director for Park Place Porsche Dallas. She has enjoyed the last 21 years advancing from Assistant Service Manager to Service Manager to now Service Director, overseeing one of the largest Porsche Service centers in the United States.
  • Shiva Olumi is the Finance and Insurance Director for Park Place Lexus Plano. Over the last 21 years, she has had several job roles starting from receptionist to becoming a director.
  • Jody Monroe is the Assistant Controller at Park Place Dealerships. Her journey with Park Place started from 21 years ago as the Accounts Payable Accounts Receivable (APAR) Clerk for Park Place Mercedes Dallas.
  • Wendy Reynolds is the Vice President and Chief DEI Officer for Asbury Automotive. Wendy worked for 15 years as Vice President and Chief DEI Officer at Unisys, where she led business-aligned strategic initiatives in DEI, Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”), organization effectiveness, talent management, employee engagement, workforce planning, and analysis, and leadership/executive development.

With women making up less than 18% of the workforce in this industry, Park Place is dedicated to recruiting and retaining more women who can have incredible careers in the automotive industry while working with a team that is dedicated to their success.

The Power of a Lego

This past week, Park Place brought all of our team members together, with their guests, to celebrate our 35th anniversary.  Aligned with our core belief of Expressing Care and living with a genuine spirit of service, our team members chose to use the evening to align with Children’s Health, the leading pediatric health care system in North Texas by bringing toys and making donations to “Cape Day,” a fundraiser for patient and support services, research, and new equipment.

Our Park Place Family showed up in a big way.  Not only did they completely fill an extended-length Sprinter with toys and backpacks, but our members opened their hearts to show how much Park Place cares for others and our communities.

After the event, Tony Carimi, Park Place Dealerships Managing Director, received the note below from a member of our team, sharing the impact of how a single toy affects lives and creates real experiences.  Individually, we’re strong.  Together, we’re unstoppable.

I wanted to say that Park Place’s decision to collect toys for Children’s was very meaningful to me. 

When my 9-year-old daughter Julianne was in the hospital after her brain cancer diagnosis a little over a year ago, one of the bright points was when a social worker offered her a choice of toys that a generous person had donated. Julianne chose a Lego set that she began but had to abandon when her motor control deteriorated because of the tumor. Later, after radiation treatments, we were able to continue and finish the set. 

In November of 2021, Julianne passed away. But that toy donated anonymously was a bright spot at a difficult time that gave my girl some joy and pride. We still display that Lego set in our home.

I was overwhelmed to see all of the toys Park Place members had given at the 35th Anniversary party for kids at Children’s Health. A whole van full! Believe me, they will cause a lot of happiness for some sweet kids who need something to smile about. I loved the opportunity to bring a Lego set to donate in honor of my daughter.

Kurt Rongey
Sales Experience Manager, Park Place Volvo

Extra Girly Service Technician– Citlali Reyes

Citlali Reyes, 23, has been a technician at Park Place Motorcars Arlington for four years. But if you were to see her outside of the dealership, you would never guess her profession.

“I’m extra girly,” she proclaims. “I’ve always loved working on cars. I find it amusing how I love makeup, nails, heels, and all the typical girly things so much. On the same note though, I’m a high flagging, efficient technician that has committed the hours, blood, sweat, and tears to get where I am currently.”

Citlali was born in Denver but moved to Texas with her parents in 2012 and graduated from Irving’s MacArthur High School before finishing at UTI Dallas in 2018.

“My first impression when I came to Park Place was how luxurious the entire dealership is in all departments, from sales and service to parts, the client waiting area, and our shop.”

When not at work, Citlali manages a small apparel business and is co-owner of a small business in the custom truck scene. She’s also currently in the process of becoming a licensed nail technician.

When asked what advice she would give someone just starting out, she responded, “Advancement is simple. Just keep your long-term goal in clear sight and make small steps towards the big picture.”

Lexus Plano Service Director: Rod Moreno – Woodworking Expert

Rod Moreno, Service Director at Lexus Plano, has been with Park Place for 22 years. He started as a Sales Assistant/Porter at Lexus Grapevine.

“It was the most luxurious dealership I’d ever seen,” he said. “I was an ASM at Lexus Grapevine when they told us we would be applying for the Malcolm Baldrige award. I had never heard of the award. It didn’t really hit home until we spent months and months preparing and executing our processes. Then we won, and all the hard work paid off.”

In addition to being an expert in the service department, Rod is also a very talented woodworker.

“I love woodworking!” he explained. “I converted my two-car garage into a shop. I’ve always had an interest dating back to middle school woodworking class. I enjoy building any project that my wife and daughters will love… dollhouses, play kitchens, barn doors, nightstands, etc.”

Born and raised in Fort Worth, he graduated from Southwest High School in 1996 and attended two years of college while working at a Fort Worth Lexus dealership.

“I live in Trophy Club with my wife Reagan and our three daughters Sylvie (11), Natalie (8), and Dylan (5). I am an only child. My mom said I was too bad for her to have more.”

When asked what advice he would give to someone just starting at Park Place, he answered, “Patience. Have patience when you are trying to grow in a company. Make yourself the obvious choice when the opportunity presents itself.”

Dan Le, The Unexpected IT Expert

You could say Dan Le’s path to becoming an IT Tier III Engineer for Park Place Dealerships was a long and winding road. It started in 1975 when he was only 9 years old and he immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam. Dan is quick to thank all the Vietnam veterans who helped his family relocate.

After graduating from Carrollton’s R. L. Turner High School in 1984, he went straight to Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Houston. Afterward, he was hired as a service technician at a Mercedes-Benz dealership on Oak Lawn in Dallas that would become Park Place’s first dealership.

“At 19 and working for a well-known Mercedes-Benz dealership was a dream came true,” said Dan. “I worked as a technician for two years, then became a service dispatcher, where I helped with a variety of functions related to IT support, including phone system administrator and installation, tech payroll, and ADP program setup. During this time, the company had yet to integrate computers or even email into its processes.”

“ADP installed a hand-full of green screens throughout the dealership to improve car flow,” he explained. “It was hard for some people to trust the automated features of managing car flow. But it was easy for me to understand so I helped train others. During this period, we had several ADP systems upgrades. I became Park Place’s local ADP support.”

As technology was rapidly progressing, Le was able to demonstrate how the technology could have a positive impact throughout the organization.

“Within 10 years, ADP installed our first Cisco network infrastructure. Shortly after, Mercedes-Benz asked Park Place to be one of their test dealerships to implement the new NetStar Mercedes-Benz system. I worked alongside Mercedes’ NetStar team on a full-blown WAN network infrastructure between all our dealerships. Porsche deployed their own system and I got involved. Soon after, Lexus deployed their Dealer Daily system. Basically, every brand we have represented, I helped introduce their system into our dealerships and have worked in IT at Park Place ever since.”

Dan and his wife of 28 years live in Highland Village. Their daughter Liz lives in Vista, California and their son Nathen is a senior at Texas A&M.

Dan’s advice to someone just starting out? “Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Believe in yourself and work hard, even when no one is looking.”