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At Galpin Motors, a family works behind the brand

It’s A FAMILY AFFAIR at Galpin Motors. “We’re really a family and we work as a family,” said patriarch and dealership owner Bert Boeckmann.

That includes his wife, Jane, two sons, brother Karl and three grandchildren.

“I love working together as a family. I love having my sons here and my grandsons here.” he said. But the family culture extends beyond the immediate level at the North Hills-based company that has 1,200 employees.

“The employees here are the same as the rest of the family,” Boeckmann, a Northridge resident. That all-inclusive spirit, developed over six decades, earned Galpin the Best Workplace Culture designation in the Los Angeles News Group’s Winning Workplace readers poll. Boeckmann, 83, still works at the dealership five days a week and from home on Saturdays.

The business, started in 1946 by Frank Galpin, has been the nation’s top-selling Ford dealer for 24 consecutive years. Galpin’s stable now includes Volkswagen, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, Lincoln, Volvo, Aston Martin, Lotus and Jaguar. The Mazda store is in Van Nuys, Honda is in Mission Hills and Volkswagen is in Santa Clarita.

The North Hills complex of showrooms, which is on both sides of Roscoe Boulevard between Sepulveda Boulevard and the 405 Freeway, also includes Horseless Carriage restaurant and the award-winning Galpin Auto Sports customizing operation.

“I think we are all just very proud of the dealerships and what they have been able to do,” Boeckmann said of his workforce that is spread across the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys. Each summer, Galpin holds a longevity luncheon to recognize employees’ service in five-year increments. Ford salesman Don Rohde is now in his 42nd year and said that the workplace culture Boeckmann instituted is the reason for his long run.

Rohde had no sales experience when he started at Galpin in 1972; he credits Boeckmann with being a mentor more than a boss. “To learn from a man who is just consumed with how to serve a customer well and the discipline it takes to do that has encouraged me to be a better sales person and that has spilled over into my personal life,” he said. “So where do you go if you are working for the best? Why would you go anyplace else?” Actually, Rohde has been able to go to lots of places.

Boeckmann rewards good work with perks that include paid vacations. “Bert has sent me all over the world on different trips,” he said. Boeckmann has had quite a ride, too. He became a salesman at the dealership in 1953 and soon impressed Galpin enough to earn a promotion to assistant manager in 1956. He became the general manager a year later.

By 1968, he owned Galpin. “First of all, I never thought I would go into this business,” he said with a chuckle last year on the eve of the dealership’s 60th anniversary. “I thought every week about quitting because the business was so disorganized.

Starting out as a salesman you don’t have the service attitude we have toward the customer today. But I had that at a very young age.” It paid off.

In the 1980s, Galpin received the national Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award. Jeff Skobin, the company’s marketing manager, maintains the longevity list and said it’s not unusual for workers to log several decades. One cook at the restaurant has also been with the company for 40 years. He credits Boeckmann with leading by example and notes that the company hosts an annual employee picnic.

“It starts at the top and that’s why its such a great place to work,” he said of the dealership. “You have employees that are like minded and share the owner’s vision. When customers are happy, we are happy and that just feeds through the organization.

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