Member Spotlight on Robert Morris: Thirty Years and Counting

Robert Morris loves tacos. So when south-of-the-border cuisine graces the dealership’s quarterly Team Park Place luncheon menu, he’s a happy guy. Even if he IS always last in line and the lettuce is wilting.

General Manager Robert Morris at Park Place Motorcars-Dallas, Friday, April 9, 2021, in Irving, Texas. (Michael Ainsworth)

That’s because his favorite part of the event – more than the tacos, which is saying something – is recognizing fellow team members.

“Team Park Place luncheons are a tradition across the company,” he says. “It’s our time to share camaraderie and recognize achievement. Recognition is huge. We’re all one team, pulling in the same direction – to provide exceptional client experiences – and every single person here deserves our respect for what they do to make that happen.”

During the luncheons, he visits every table, greets everyone by name and thanks them for the great job they’re doing. Then he’s at the front of the room, mic in hand, honoring above-and-beyond performance. He’s particularly fond of service anniversaries, which are remarkably long at this flagship store (as they are throughout Park Place). Out of a total 345 team members at their store, 52 have been with the company for 10-15 years; 40 have tenures of between 15 and 20 years; 16 have logged between 20-30 years; nine have served 30 or more years, and two people have been with the company for more than 40 years.

His own longevity is a case in point – 2021 marks his 30th anniversary with Park Place. 

“Clearly, we’re doing something right,” Morris smiles. “Great people, great brand, great vision.”

His path to the automotive industry was circuitous as well as fortuitous. Raised in Livermore, California, his family moved to Bedford, Texas, when he was in seventh grade. And while most teenagers might have balked at such a drastic cultural dislocation, Morris welcomed it.

“I was into sports and attended Trinity which had, and still has, a great soccer team,” he says. “So I engaged with the community right away and the transition was easy. Go Trojans!”

A little digging uncovers the fact that, as team captain, he led them to numerous tournament championships, which speaks to an early flair for his refreshingly humble leadership style. Around the same time, he and a buddy started a landscaping business and sweated out a few Texas summers. A client suggested he might enjoy a much cooler job (literally and figuratively) in the automotive wholesale industry.

“I started as a porter and general go-fer, then learned how to do appraisals and look critically at paintwork and mechanical conditions,” he says. “Then I hit the road driving high-line cars all over the country and attending auctions from New York to California and everywhere in between. It was great fun to take side trips to visit national parks and watch the seasons change. Great experiences.”

One of his most favorite customers – Park Place Motorcars Dallas.

“I’d buy used vehicles off the backlot and saw right away that Park Place was a really good company with great people,” he says. Friendships with team members led to a job offer as a pre-owned sales consultant in 1991. He took the leap and never looked back.

His motivation was personal as well as professional, since he’d also taken the leap into marriage in 1989. “Being gone three weeks out of every month was a challenge, so the stability of Park Place was ideal,” he says.

He rose through the ranks, becoming pre-owned manager in 1994 and in October 1999, transferred to the Bedford store where he was named GM in 2000. In 2005, he was named GM of Park Place Motorcars Dallas, the company’s flagship facility.

“Frankly, we all wondered how we were going to fill up this massive 11-acre area,” he laughs. “But it wasn’t too long before we were looking for more space, so I guess we were doing something right.”

Mercedes Benz certainly thinks so. The manufacturer has given their coveted “Best of the Best” award to the store an astonishing 13 times. Morris notes that Covid-19 has resulted in the program’s suspension, but promises that “when they crank back up, we’ll get back on track.”

He’s confident of success because his business management philosophy is simplicity itself.

“It’s a cliché, but it really is all about the people,” he says. “I’ve always felt that I needed to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, people who inspire and make everyone better. I think we’ve done that.”

He attributes that same philosophy to his marriage. “Dana definitely makes me a better person,” he cheerfully admits.

They share similar interests in anything outdoorsy, including yardwork, where his prior experience as a landscaper comes in quite handy. They’re also proud parents to two rescue Labrador Retrievers (their third and fourth). And they’re avid hikers at Texas’ Big Bend National Park and – before the pandemic – went on what he calls “a dream trip” to southern Alaska’s Chugach Mountains. In fact, they’re planning a getaway to Palo Duro Canyon soon, where he’ll unpack his trusty Nikon (a Christmas gift from Dana) and indulge a passion he developed nearly 10 years ago – photographing nature.

“Birds, lizards, rabbits, deer, anything really,” he says. “The idea popped into my head and now I’m hooked. What’s really interesting is that you never know what you’ve got until you pull them up on the computer and then it’s like a big discovery.” (Hint – more Dana pics.)

Which brings us to their “meet-cute” story.

“Back in 1985, I played on a league soccer team in Bedford sponsored by a local restaurant,” he recalls, “and we’d head there after games and practices. One night, this really pretty waitress came out the kitchen door with a loaded tray. Our eyes met and she took an involuntary step back. I was speechless and told the guys, ‘I think she’s the one.’ She told several other waitresses, ‘I think he’s the one.’ We talked, then talked some more and that was it for both of us. Kind of crazy but true.”

Thirty-two years later, they’re still going strong.

Which brings us back to the Team Park Place luncheon. As the event winds down and members head back to their respective responsibilities, Morris has a few moments to reflect on a quote about business leadership that he greatly admires:

“Your ability as a leader will not be judged by what you have achieved personally, or even by what your team accomplished during your tenure. You will be judged by how well your people and your organization did after you were gone. Your lasting value will be measured by succession.”

John C. Maxwell

“It’s about leaving a stronger set of people in your wake,” Morris says. “If I can help build that, then I’ll have done my job. Not that I’m going anywhere anytime soon,” he adds with a chuckle. “After all, the tacos are calling!”

The 2021 Rangers Seasons Brings a New Ballpark and New Parking Experience for Lexus Owners

Do you drive a Park Place Lexus? Do you like the Texas Rangers? Then celebrate an exciting new season at the ballpark with exclusive Lexus parking benefits! 

The new 2021 Lexus parking experience will bring you closer to the action. Lexus owners will receive complimentary self-parking in a dedicated Lexus parking lot. The Lexus lot is located directly across from the southeast entrance at globe life field and the brand-new Lexus club. Current guests of Park Place Lexus and may obtain the 2021 Lexus parking window decal beginning March 1, 2021. 

Lexus complimentary self-parking is available in the Lexus lot located at 715 Stadium Drive, just east of Globe Life Field.  Complimentary self parking will be provided exclusively for Lexus owners driving their Lexus to any home game, with the required 2020 window decal present. Once the Lexus lot reaches capacity, guests will have to pay to park in any available cash lot. 

Visit the Park Place Lexus Service Department to request your 2021-2022 season parking sticker, free of charge!

Interested in complimentary parking but don’t yet have a Lexus? Come visit us at Park Place Lexus Plano or Park Place Lexus Grapevine to check out our inventory of new and used Lexus vehicles.

For more information on Texas Ranger Lexus owner benefits, click here.

Member Spotlight on Wagner Martins: Brazil, Balance Sheets and Breakaways

To say that Brazilian native Wagner Martins likes soccer is an extreme understatement.

After all, Seleção Brasileira, the country’s national football team has won the FIFA World Cup championship a record-breaking five times and is regularly ranked among the world’s best. So of course, he’s a proud fan and supporter.

But his respect for the game transcends mere fandom. As a volunteer coach for two youth teams at the FC Fusion soccer academy, he sees the game as a great training ground for handling life’s challenges with fairness, fellowship and cooperation.

“If I’m not at work or at church, I’m at the soccer field,” he says. “Both our kids are on separate teams (Eric, 15 and Esther, 13), and I coach both. I’m mindful that competing successfully is about more than just running breakaways and winning. It’s about getting to know them and dealing with them as a person, not just a player. If they’re not performing as usual, I try to help them figure out what might be bothering them, what’s affecting their mood and mindset. I see my role as being a mentor as well as a coach.”

His passion for people comes from his deep and abiding faith.

After a four-year stint as an MP (Military Police) in the Brazilian Air Force, he packed his rucksack and moved to Texas to attend the Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, where he earned his ministry license and master’s degree in theology. His subsequent missionary work over the past 15 years has taken him all over the world. “Spain, Portugal, Mexico, all over Europe and many African countries  – wherever there was need, that’s where I was.”

He also spent a decade in the food-service industry with Ohio-based international restaurant chain Wendy’s. “I started in 2001 flipping burgers and rose to store manager,” he smiles. “It was a lot of hard work but a lot of fun, too.” But in 2009, Wagner was one of many caught up in a company-wide series of layoffs.

So, on the advice of his wife Ana, (17 years of wedded bliss!), he had a long chat with his father-in-law, Miguel Gonzalez, who has worked at Park Place for 18 years as of this writing. Impressed by what he heard, Wagner applied for a valet position at Lexus Plano, scored an interview and was hired the very next day.  He rose through the ranks quickly, working in areas of increasing responsibility such as the loaner car department, cashier, lead generation and inventory.

Thanks to his Wendy’s managerial experience and familiarity with accounting functions (along with his natural facility with numbers), he moved into an accounting role. In 2015, he was tapped to bring his expertise to the corporate office and he now works as manager in the Accounts Receivable and Payable department.

In this current role, his team keeps an eye on more than 400 AR accounts to ensure correct and timely payments, as well as posting all transactions from the dealerships on a daily basis, assisting with invoices and repair orders, wire transactions, and many other functions.

“Every day is a fun challenge,” he says. “I might field 15 to 20 calls a day. It might be a client, or a parts vendor and every one of them is important. Sometimes reaching a resolution might take just 2 or 3 minutes, or maybe a half-hour. Sometimes I look up at its already 2 p.m. I love that. It makes for a busy day but a rewarding one, too. I like solving problems.”

What he likes most, though, is the Park Place culture.

“You feel like you’re part of a family,” he says. “Everybody helps everybody. The spirit here is really special and not found at other companies.”

In his rare spare time, he takes comfort in reading the Bible and listening to gospel music, especially Hillsong Worship, an Australian Christian music group.

He also professes an abiding fondness for any of the Brazilian steakhouses in and around town. “The meals are always a terrific celebration,” he says. “I really enjoy taking the family. It’s where I feel most close to home. And the food’s great!”

Member Spotlight on Becky Ashcraft: Imagination and Expertise Galore

“I’m a nerd,” admits Becky Ashcraft, Financial Business Partner for Park Place Motorcars Fort Worth. “I build Legos, love anime, can’t sit still and obsess about details.”

You mean like Sheldon Cooper, the fictional Caltech physicist and ardent comic-book fan on CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory”?

“Exactly!” she exclaims gleefully, picking up and waving one of the dozen or so plastic grinning skulls decorating her desk. “See what I mean? I like weird stuff! Any questions?”

Actually, yes, we’re fairly bubbling over with curiosity. But first, a point – while nerds generally lack social skills, this Fort Worth native and West Academy graduate is lively, outgoing, animated, direct and generally a super-fun person to hang out with. Consider her email signature: “Have an Awesome-Tastic Day!”

Given her joie de vivre, it’s easy to see why she was hired the same day she interviewed with Park Place. “Back in 2006, a friend of a friend called and suggested I apply online for a valet gig, which I did, and I got a call two hours later for a same-day interview,” she recalls. “I still had chlorine in my hair from the pool, but I showed up and got the job. It’s my husband’s birthday, so not a date I’m likely to forget.”

She moved quickly into a loan car coordinator position, then was promoted to an accounting inventory specialist role, then a title specialist, then a billing specialist, then a Business Coordinator. She just recently accepted her current role as a Financial Business Partner.

Her eye for detail is positively Holmesian, which is a very good thing in her line of work. “We’re a two-person team and we double-check every little thing to complete the sale. It’s like a puzzle, putting together all the pieces correctly to get the final result,” she says.

Sort of like … a Lego puzzle?

“Yes, but not nearly so complex,” she says with a grin. “I got into Legos with my son, but he was a bit too young. However, I got hooked. Just recently, I finished the Lego Disney Castle, which took a year, believe it or not.” (We believe it – even expert modelers quail at the set’s 4,000 pieces that, when completed, stands 30 inches tall and features a stone bridge, ornate balconies, a four-story main building and a five-story, golden-spired main tower.) “It’s in our home’s entryway for all to see! I’ve built about 50 different sets so far.”

Next up – a 13-inch-tall Yoda. At a mere 1,771 pieces, it should be a breeze.

Her fascination with complex puzzles extends to her taste for fantasy in literature and popular entertainment. She favors Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” book series and Marvel Studio movies. Recently, she found herself caught up with “Bleach,” a Japanese anime TV series and was bereft when the 366-episode series concluded.  

“I love immersive supernatural stories, especially in anime format,” she says. “Fighting dragons, magic, mythology, all that stuff. The skulls, too. I started collecting them about ten years ago. They’re all over my office. For holidays at home, we put little seasonal caps on them. What else do you call that but nerdy?”

How about imaginative? Or eclectic? Or a wildly funny sense of humor? Or maybe, just maybe, she’s one of the millions of people worldwide who admire brilliant storytelling?

“Yeah, let’s go with that,” she laughs.

In fact, “creative” might be Becky’s best descriptor. Few know this – and you read it here first! – but she’s also a championship dancer. Ballet pointe, jazz, tap – you name it, she can twirl, kick, shimmy, shake and glide like a pro. Because she is.

“I was part of the Bruce Lea Dance Factory competition team,” she says. “We performed at Miss Texas pageants, Las Vegas shows, conventions all over the country. That was my life every weekend for 14 years. I don’t do it anymore, but it’s like riding a bike, it never goes away. Every now and then, you might even catch me doing a few steps here in the hallways.”

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about Becky might be her food preferences. “I’m a picky eater,” she says. “I eat less than my child. My tastes are simple – meat, cheese, potatoes. I like tacos with beef and cheese only. Pizza with no sauce. My husband makes the best hamburgers in the world. And I’ll stand in line at Joe T.’s for their cheese quesadillas. Very simple, really.”

But there’s no puzzle about why Park Place is her perfect fit. “It’s my home away from home,” she says. “I love this place. Everybody knows my family, my husband, my 13-year-old son, even my parents. It’s trite to say, but it’s a family. And since I only live three miles from here, I can’t complain about the commute. What’s not to like?”

Park Place Joins Dallas Area Habitat For Humanity To Welcome The Salmeron Family To Their New Home

Park Place Dealerships recently joined Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity to welcome Rosemary and Wilber Salmeron to their new home in Dallas. After nearly six months of construction, the Salmerons were given the keys to their new home and a housewarming gift from Park Place.

Breaking ground last October, more than 160 Park Place members spent 10 weeks transforming the home from a blank slab as they raised the first walls, put up roof support trusses, built interior walls and installed exterior siding. Most of the members had little or no experience in home building or construction skills. Dallas Habitat for Humanity created processes that kept the family, staff and volunteers safe throughout the entire build. Rain or shine, Park Place members worked from October to December helping build the three-bedroom home for the Salmerons and their two children.

“For more than three decades, Park Place has given back to the communities where we live and work,” said Tony Carimi, managing director of Park Place Dealerships. “But this is the first time we have embarked on a project of this scale. For 10 weeks, members from throughout our company worked together on this one initiative. It’s been very rewarding to watch the home take shape week after week. Many of our members have commented on how much it means to help create a home that will bring joy to the Salmeron family for many years to come.” 

Serving families with an average annual income of $40,000, Dallas Area Habitat built 25 homes in 2020 despite the global pandemic.

Members from Park Place Motorcars Dallas, Park Place Motorcars Fort Worth, Bodywerks Fort Worth, Jaguar Land Rover DFW, Park Place’s corporate office, Park Place Auto Auction, Park Place Porsche Dallas, Park Place Volvo, Bodywerks Dallas, Park Place Lexus Plano, Park Place Lexus Grapevine and Park Place Motorcars Arlington staggered volunteer days to serve. This was Park Place Dealerships’ largest community relations project undertaken at any time in the company’s 34-year history. 

“Working together helped strengthen our bonds,” said Anam Ali Hashambhai, marketing director for Park Place Dealerships. “You learn a lot about a co-worker when you’re lifting a roof truss onto a house or swinging hammers side by side. Throughout the process our members were emphatic they got much more out of the experience than they contributed.”

Habitat homeowners buy their homes, paying an affordable mortgage and the homeowners also invest hundreds of hours of labor working alongside volunteers. In order to qualify, families go thru an extensive vetting process and receive financial education and assistance to create a budget.

The Park Place Cares program supports more than 300 organizations around the Dallas-Fort Worth area throughout the year. Park Place’s 1,400 members are further challenged to volunteer their time and resources to serve local communities. To follow Park Place Dealerships’ build of the Habitat for Humanity home, visit ParkPlace.com/HabitatforHumanity.

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. The local affiliate was founded in 1986 and has built more than 1700 homes over a 34-year history. Through affordable homeownership opportunities, financial education, advocacy efforts, and neighborhood empowerment programs, Dallas Area Habitat transforms families, revitalizes neighborhoods, and is working together to build a better Dallas. Strategically bringing together public and private funding, community leadership and vision, and thousands of volunteers – we will break the cycle of poverty and transform communities. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit DallasAreaHabitat.org

Member Spotlight on Monroe Sims: The Power of Kindness

 

It’s said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. If that’s so (and it is), then Monroe Sims is easily its most accomplished and natural practitioner. There’s not a phony bone in his body.  

In his role as valet and team lead with Park Place Motorcars Arlington, it’s Monroe’s beaming face many clients are likely to see when dropping or picking up their vehicle on the service drive. Well, maybe not his face, since everyone’s masked nowadays. But the smile that crinkles his eyes is unmistakable.  

“I just try to be personable,” he says. “I want every person to know that I’m here to help and do whatever I can to take care of them.” 

Monroe hails from Monroe, Louisiana, but no, he’s not named for the place. Nor was his father, also Monroe, nor was his uncle Monroe. “Sure would’ve been convenient though,” he chuckles.  

A student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) with a major in personnel management, he served in the U.S. Air Force for four years in communications, which saw him travelling regularly between Shreveport, La., Phoenix, AZ and the country of Taiwan. He was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant, and immediately stepped into a global reservations role with American Airlines, later Sabre Holdings Corporation, a subsidiary of American Airlines.  

“I applied with American in Phoenix and the Air Force allowed me to train for six months while I was still on active military duty, which was rewarding, wonderful and an honor to serve,” he says. “I really enjoyed my time in the Air Force, even if I didn’t get to fly anything!” 

A Corporate Life

The American Airlines gig started his 39-year career in corporate life. After a year in Phoenix, he was transferred to Los Angeles as a reservations instructor, which then led to a gig training travel agents on the Sabre system up and down the west coast. Within a few years, he was managing the Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii regions. His efficiency got him noticed by leadership and he moved to Sabre’s headquarters in DFW, then Tulsa, then back to DFW, for roles with increasing management responsibility and high-level project management. 

“We negotiated with the phone companies to get our circuits into different locations so that customers could run the system,” he recalls. “We worked with companies that wanted to get on our platform, which meant running down all the technical requirements and interfacing with our engineers to make sure we could build the system correctly from concept to test to implementation. We spent time testing with more than 250 people with Miller Coors (now Molson Coors) and implemented in just two weeks. It was really intense but we had a great time.” 

He’s a tad less upbeat when he reflects on all the international travel he had to do. “I don’t miss those callouses from briefcases, or the blur of hotels and meetings. But my wife Anita and I love to travel now for pleasure.”

He rode the corporate merger-and-acquisition phase in the early 21st century, such as when AMR sold its share of Sabre Holdings to Plano-based EDS in 2001. Six years later, EDS bought more than 90 percent of Sabre’s remaining assets. Two years after that, EDS itself was acquired by HP.  

Through it all, Monroe stood tall, making it through one restructuring after another. But by 2014, the handwriting was on the wall and he took a retirement package. “Twenty-five years with AMR and another 14 with HP,” he says. “Not a bad run!” 

New Beginnings

For a year, Monroe and Anita, focused on family. Their daughter, an Air Force sergeant, was deployed to Afghanistan. Her husband, also in the military, was sent to Europe. Caring for their one-year-old son fell to Monroe and Anita. “Most fulfilling work I’ve ever done,” he reflects. “And it wasn’t work, it was pure joy.” In all, they have seven grandchildren and feel obliged to spoil them all. 

But he still yearned for something to do (and cheerfully admits that Anita wanted him out of the house). In 2015, he noticed that Park Place was building a new facility in Arlington just three miles from his home. He applied for, and got, a job.  

And he almost revels in the next question: “You went from being a big-time corporate hotshot to … a car dealership valet?” 

“I love it!” he roars with laughter. “It’s customer service, which is a natural fit for me, I’m in my element. I did the corporate world and didn’t want that anymore. I’m outside all the time, no meetings, no reports, no travel, no late hours, and I’m working with a younger generation of people, which is good for me. I enjoy our camaraderie here, love helping create exceptional client experiences and being an advocate for the company. What can I say? It works well for me!” 

It most certainly does. In early February 2021, he was part of a select group of only 324 store management and front-line team members (out of 8,000 team members nationwide) to be named a 2020 winner of Asbury Automotive Group’s stock equity awards.  

“To be seen as a contributor to our success is just astonishing and humbling,” he says.  

In his spare time, he and Anita usually try to make a major trip somewhere cool. They loved their Greek island cruise and he calls their trip to the Holy Land the “most rewarding of our lives.” But he admits that the most fun was, of all places, Montana. 

“I’d always wanted to go, so Anita booked it as a gift to get it out of my system,” he recalls. “She didn’t really want to go but after our three days was up, she couldn’t bear to leave! We also took a quick to Utah which was great. South Dakota is next, once it’s okay to travel again.”  

“The most important thing that lends to the success of any business is relationship-building, and Monroe has a Master’s degree in making others feel special in our dealership,” says Park Place Motorcars Arlington General Manager Malcolm Gage. “The first day I met Monroe when I came over to Motorcars Arlington, I was treated as if I were a longtime friend that he hadn’t seen in a few weeks, and his attitude exuded positive energy that is just infectious. Our clients love Monroe and he’s well respected by his team members, and we all need someone like him in our lives right now. We are very fortunate to have him on our team!”

Member Spotlight on Sydney Archer: Mobility is in Her Genes

“Even though I pretty much grew up around cars, being in the business wasn’t part of my plan,” confesses Sydney Archer, Sales Experience Manager (SEM) at Park Place Jaguar Land Rover Grapevine. “My dad owned Nebraska’s number one Hyundai dealership. When I was little, I was always underfoot somewhere and once I was old enough, he put me to work!”

Given that Archer is what’s commonly referred to as a “go-getter,” it was a wise move on her dad’s part. She jumped right in, creating and then nurturing the dealership’s online presence, as well as managing their DealerRater page (to those in the industry who know, that’s a really big deal). She also pitched in with driving customer engagement numbers across a variety of communication channels and liaised across departments, gaining a broad understanding of what makes the business tick.

And that, in a word, is communication. Good thing, then, that her B.S. degree from Fort Worth’s TCU (Go, Horned Frogs!) is in Communication Sciences.

“I’ve always been interested in literature and the theory of communications,” she says. “I like knowing how to communicate with people, why we communicate the way we do and creating a feeling of hospitality to help make a person comfortable.”

After graduation, she did a few gigs unrelated to the automotive industry – banking and travel – but her dad suggested that, given her wealth of industry experience, she look for something she had an affinity for. A stint at a local North Texas dealership confirmed his (once again) sage advice and prompted her to seek a company that “was as committed to exceptional experiences as I was.”

Given the ubiquity of Park Place locations throughout the DFW area, she didn’t have to look far. She joined in June 2019, initially serving with the internet sales group and then transitioning to the sales floor this past March – just in time for the pandemic.

That’s when that “go-getter” thing kicked in yet again. Quarantine or no, she says she’s having a “great year, with lots of referrals,” and credits the brand strength of the two venerable British marques she represents.

Does she have any favorites?

“Jaguar’s done an outstanding job of carrying through their racing and luxury heritage with the F-Pace,” she says. “It’s not at all typical of an SUV in that it handles more like a cool, sporty vehicle. But my personal favorite is Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport. It handles unbelievably well and really turns heads. They’ve also just released the Defender, which looks really tough and is completely different than anything out there. It’s rugged off-road but also extremely well-equipped and frankly, one of the smoothest vehicles I’ve ever driven.”

As fun as the vehicles are, though, she admits that the best part of her job is the people – clients as well as her fellow team members.

“I enjoy meeting new people and creating lifelong relationships,” she says. “Our brands are very aspirational, and it’s really cool to help someone get their dream car and share how they feel when they see their hard work pay off.”

“Any dealership can say they put the customer first, but Park Place really carries through,” she continues. “We don’t have to get permission to do the right thing. Today’s buyers want a personal approach and they’re not looking at me to sell them. We’re all here to help clients make the right choice, with no pressure whatsoever. It’s a great feeling.”

She recalls one particularly memorable sale. “Remember, I’m just a kid from Omaha at heart. An internet buyer from California was looking for a very exclusive Range Rover model. At first, I wasn’t really sure if this person was legit, but they’d been looking for this exact vehicle and we were the only ones in the country with it. We did the whole deal via text and phone, then sent paperwork to Ibiza where the client was vacationing, then shipped the vehicle to San Francisco. It was wild!”

Speaking of destinations, Archer is a dedicated traveler and looks forward to getting back out there. “I’m sort of a type A personality, but anywhere with a beach, red wine, a nice patio and a fire pit is my kind of place,” she laughs.

Chief among her travel delights – cuisine.

“We had to cancel a trip to Cabo San Lucas, which has a great food scene that nobody knows about if you get away from the tourist areas. Believe it or not, there’s a great Swiss fondue place there. And the Italian food! My boyfriend of six years makes fun of me because I say you can get the best Italian food ever right there. Lemon cream pasta is my favorite.”

Pasta? How do you stay so skinny?

“Pilates!”

Park Place Dealerships Opens Sprinter Dallas Location

Park Place Dealerships opened a new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter store February 8 at 3333 Atwell Street, one block from their flagship Mercedes-Benz dealership (Park Place Motorcars Dallas) on Lemmon Avenue. The 21,428 square-foot facility houses sales and service, including 12 service bays with eight lifts.

“Throughout the years, we’ve assisted clients out of our dealership with the design, purchase and service of Sprinter vans for their business and personal needs,” said Robert Morris, General Manager of Sprinter Dallas and Park Place Motorcars Dallas. “This new store will enable us to better serve or clients, whether they need a single Sprinter van or a fleet of 30. We’ve also seen a trend in custom conversions for personal travel. The beauty of the Sprinter is its versatility with the quality and reliability of Mercedes-Benz.”

Mercedes-Benz created the world’s first motorized truck/van in 1896. Produced by Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, and delivered to a customer in London, the vehicle offered a 1500 kg (3,307 pound) payload with a two-cylinder engine that delivered a top speed of 7 mph. In the same year, rival Karl Benz developed a van-type delivery vehicle for supply to a Paris department store. In 1926, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft and Benz joined forces to form Daimler-Benz AG.

“With 13 different models, and endless options to customize the interior for specific needs, today’s Sprinter is the most adaptable van on the market,” says Morris. “And every Sprinter comes with Mercedes PRO Connect, an integrated vehicle monitoring software that connects drivers and businesses to raise efficiency, increase security and improve safety. And it’s for free for three years.”

In 1995, the Sprinter van launched in Europe. Available in Traveliner, panel van and pick-up versions, it introduced cutting-edge technology like ABS anti-lock braking as standard equipment.

In 2010, the Sprinter van entered the U.S. market. In 2013, Sprinter set a new benchmark for efficiency, safety and dynamics with an updated model that introduced new industry-leading safety systems such as Crosswind Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot Assist, High Beam Assist and Lane Keeping Assist. Perhaps most importantly for a commercial vehicle, the Sprinter’s low fuel consumption made it the most efficient vehicle in its segment.

Located near Love Field, Park Place Sprinter Dallas is open 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Friday, and open until 6 p.m. Saturday. Parts and Service hours are 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday, and open until 5 p.m. Saturday. For more info, visit us at parkplace.com.

Member Spotlight on Germaine Ambres: Practicing What He Preaches

Given that Germaine Ambres serves as New Car Sales Director for Park Place Volvo, you’d expect that his home driveway might display the Swedish brand’s latest and greatest.

You’d be partly right.

“My wife Sekolia and I are really true to the brand in that we tend to hold onto our cars. We like paying them off. She’s got a 2013 S60. We’re all like that at our store. Besides,” he adds, “it’s a Volvo, it’s barely broken in!”

Ambres certainly puts Volvo’s much-vaunted reputation for durability and reliability to the test: he drives his company-provided XC90 about 80 miles roundtrip to work every day. His solution for not going bonkers – hands-free phone calls, audiobooks, and music (he likes WRR, where fellow Volvo team member Kurt Rongey once served as Operations and Programming Manager).

Or he just muses.

“In fact, just yesterday I was noticing all the other dealerships I pass by on my drive and thinking how fortunate I am to be with Park Place,” he says. “Leadership’s commitment to creating exceptional client experiences is real. And Donny (Lambrecht, Park Place Volvo General Manager) fosters a genuinely warm family feeling at our store. We all have a great time. It’s fun coming to work.”

Fun? At work? Well, sure, if you define fun as frequent, boisterous outbursts of laughter. “We’re all professionals but perhaps, every once in a while, we might be slightly guilty of acting like a bunch of over-sugared fifth-graders,” Ambres admits with a grin. “But we’re highly responsible fifth-graders!”

The Houston-born Ambres knows a thing or two about responsibility. While at Lamar High School, he was extremely active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization, and then attended Houston Baptist University, graduating with a degree in biblical counseling.

He joined a Toyota dealership for a year, serving as part of their internet team. “I really enjoyed it,” he says. But several clients told him that he “really should take a look at Park Place, it’s more your kind of place.” So in 2007 he took a good long look, and it was most definitely his kind of place.

“The people and the brand sold me and it’s been home ever since,” he smiles. “The best part of my job is connecting with clients. Just last week, one of my very first clients came in and seeing the same faces is just awesome. We bring out the best in each other. It’s really a case of the right people in the right place for the right motives. Neat chemistry!”

In his rare spare time, he loves to cook. “I’m Cajun by ancestry, so I like making creole and gumbo, real southern comfort foods. But I also love Italian! I make a mean lasagna. In fact, I just spent $70 on ingredients – only the best meats, cheeses, a good cabernet in the sauce, and oh boy, it’s really worth the investment.”

He’s also active in his church, and finds that his degree is helpful in his volunteer couples counseling services.

So yeah, he’s a busy, cheerful and involved guy. But what many of his clients, and even some of his team members may not know, is that after college graduation and before entering his chosen profession, he leveraged his degree into several tours of missionary work.

“To say it was eye-opening is an understatement,” he says. “We visited St. Petersburg in Russia and various villages throughout India, and those experiences changed my life. We ran pioneer camps where we’d feed Russian kids who had nothing. They literally relied on us for meals. And then to view the opulence of the czars, who put gold on top of their castles while their people starved, was intense. In India, we helped desperately poor people and to look into their eyes …” His voice trails off at the memory.

“The point is that people are people everywhere, and it’s both humbling and an honor to be of service,” he says. “And you can serve others anywhere, through all your routine daily interactions. Serving with honesty and true humility is the highest calling of all.”

Member Spotlight on Van Patthana: A Client Becomes a Member & Untangles Tech’s Mysteries

We’ve all been there – you’re driving along, minding your own business, when your reverie is disturbed by a sudden beep or a flashing dash light. Or maybe your nav system starts giving you the silent treatment. Or you’re enveloped in a shimmering light and beamed onto an alien spacecraft.

Okay, so maybe not that last one. But for the other stuff, Van Patthana’s your go-to guy to sort out the mysteries of today’s sophisticated automotive technology, no appointment required.

“All the advanced electronic features can be a bit overwhelming for clients, so we’re here to help,” says Patthana, one of two Lexus Technology Specialists at Park Place Lexus Grapevine. Clients can call, email, text or simply drop in at any time, no appointment necessary.

Patthana says that about 75 percent of client questions are fairly straightforward – “Why is my smartphone not pairing?” “How do I navigate the nav system?” “Why is my alarm yelling at me?” The other 25 percent might require a little more research, but those are the questions he loves. “Half the time, we can resolve the issues right on the service drive without sending the vehicle to the shop, which saves everybody time,” he notes.

Patthana’s knowledge is the result of certification in a variety of learning modules taught at the Lexus Training Center, Southern Division, conveniently located in nearby Coppell, Texas. “It’s a hidden gem,” he says. “We get trained on vehicles before they’re released to the public, which is pretty cool.”

The North Texas native (Watauga) came by his automotive inclination at an early age. “I’ve loved cars for as long as I can remember. Built them from Legos, always had Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars underfoot, and I guess I never grew out of it,” he says with a grin. His family vehicles were always Toyotas, and his aunt and uncle drove the Lexus brand, which caught his attention and, he admits, never let go.

He joined Park Place Lexus Grapevine as a valet in 2014 because he was familiar with Park Place from a client perspective. “I bought my first car, a pre-owned 2006 IS 350, from Walter Onubogu, and compared to what I saw elsewhere at other dealerships, it was the best experience ever. Park Place sets the standard. Seeing how they did things inspired me to ask for a job.”

Last year, he was inspired to ask for something equally momentous – the hand of his lady, Fern, in marriage. “She and her parents are from Laos and were visiting her aunt and uncle and other acquaintances here,” he recalls. “We met, started hanging out as friends and one thing led to another. When you know, you know.”

The newlyweds recently took a quick getaway spin to Austin – in their Lexus LS 460, natch – to indulge their shared passion for cuisine. A quick summary of their two-day itinerary:

    • New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant
    • Tumble22 Nashville – “Twice because it was so good!”
    • 68 Degrees Kitchen Italian Cuisine
    • Fleming’s Steakhouse and Wine Bar
    • Red Ash Italian Restaurant

And of course, Buc-ee’s in Temple, because, well, it’s Buc-ee’s and requires no explanation.

They’re also fans of dance music, specifically as mixed by rising superstar DJ Gareth Emery. “He’s coming out with a book funded on Kickstarter titled ‘My Life In Lasers: A Dance Music Memoir.’ Can’t wait,” Patthana enthuses.

Other interests? “Cars, dance music and food, that’s about it. I’m a simple guy,” he shrugs, then adds with a chuckle, “My wife says that about me all the time.”

One final work question – What’s the best part of your job?

“Without sounding silly, the best part is helping clients,” he says. “Some have said ‘you’ve made my day,’ or ‘we’d be lost without you.’ It’s a good feeling.”