Don Sangster sits behind his desk on the second floor of the Sangster Motors showroom. He looks out the window towards his dealership lot on the corner of Miller and Ninth streets in Wenatchee. The lot is lined with GMC and Buicks, and beneath the simple yet iconic Sangster sign lies 25 years of a family-owned business.
“It’s easy to look back and say ‘holy smokes, where did the time go?’ ” Don remarks as he contemplates the years. “Twenty-five, wow. It just seems like it can’t be yet, but it is, it’s here.”
Since 1989, Sangster Motors has been serving the Wenatchee Valley with not only a wide selection of cars, from Pontiac to Cadillac, but also by establishing long-lasting relationships and providing a type of service that goes beyond the new car smell and shiny paint job.
It’s been a long ride for Don Sangster, and if you’re ever in his area, he’d be happy to talk to you about it.
In 1988, Don and his family were living in Lewiston, Idaho. Don had been working as a store manager at a Ford dealership for eight years when the general manager of the store, Tony Copeland, came to him with a proposition.
They were starting a new dealership in Wenatchee and wanted Don to run it.
“We would have never bought the store if Don wasn’t there,” says Copeland over the phone from his home in Carlsbad, Calif. “I could leave my store in Lewiston for two months with Don in charge and not worry about a thing. So when the opportunity came, and I thought Don would be a good fit, I asked him if he wanted to go to Wenatchee.”
Twenty-five years later it seems a great decision. “Next thing I know, we’re buying the store, and then I’m buying Tony out and here we are,” Sangster says, waving his hand.
But it takes more than a wave of the hand to make a business successful for 25 years, and Sangster laughs about some of the initial struggles.
Sangster remembers a time when he was required to provide a financial report to the higher-ups every morning. These days, after 25 years, he no longer has to provide daily report cards to anyone.
Just as any business operating for that long, Sangster Motors has ridden the economic roller coaster. And Sangster can show you every month’s financial statements dating back to when the business opened if you’d like, but they won’t really tell you the secret for success at Sangster Motors. Instead, the key to their longevity is more out in the open, and you can find it as soon as you walk through the front door.
Greeted by a smile and salutation upon entering the main floor of the Sangster sales department, it’s easy to feel like you just walked into your local barbershop or a family reunion. Sales people mix with the customers and casual conversation can be heard throughout the store. Sangster Motors doesn’t rely on gimmicks, tricks or ploys when it comes to selling cars.
“The message I’m always trying to get through, and what I always stress to my employees, is customer service,” Don explains. “Try to sell cars like how you want to be treated.”
And that message of customer care is apparent across all levels of the business.
“Our main focus is to treat the customer as if they are part of the family,” says Corey Sangster. Corey is one of three Sangster sons who have been working at Sangster Motors for 20-plus years. Corey started as a service writer in 1990 and is now the new car manager.
The oldest brother, Chad Sangster, who started in parts in 1990 and is now the service manager, elaborates on just how well they take care of their customers.
“What we hope brings them back is us doing a 110-percent job after they have purchased their vehicle.” Chad adds that he is “very fortunate to have loyal employees that have stuck around with us, people really like to see the same faces working on their cars.”
And Casey Sangster, the youngest, who started in sales in 1994 and is currently the used-car manager, offers that it is the “wide selection of nice-quality new and used vehicles” that keeps customers floating through the door.
And whether it is the family atmosphere, the extra attention to detail, or the wide variety of automobiles, it all seems to get back to the Sangster Motors emphasis on customer service and care.
“It was very difficult getting started here,” Don says of moving to Wenatchee 25 years ago. “But now I can call this place my home. My best friends I’ve met, I met them being a salesman. That’s where my friendships come from, the people I sell cars to, and it’s those friendships you make during the sale that keeps them coming back.”
And if you are Bob Duretto of East Wenatchee, you’ve been coming back for nearly 25 years. Duretto played baseball for the Wenatchee Chiefs in 1955. It is here he met Bonnie, his wife of 55 years. After a long stint away, the Durettos moved back to Wenatchee and he opened Bob’s Custom Cabinets. And when he needed to buy a car in 1989, he headed to the newly opened Sangster Motors, where he first met Don Sangster.
“We just struck up a great friendship,” says Duretto from his home in East Wenatchee. Over the last 25 years the two men have vacationed together with their wives, still correspond on a daily basis and Duretto has bought eight or nine cars from Don.
“He’s always fair with everything about the business, we never bicker,” Duretto says., “Don is just a great guy, period.”
Don’s ability to make friends and sell cars hasn’t gone unnoticed. With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and more “best dealership” awards than can fit onto the mantle, Don isn’t done striving.
“In the Northwest, when you think of tires, you think of Les Schwab and the quality of service they provide. When people think of cars in this region, I want them to think of Sangster.”
As for the Sangster legacy, all three sons and Don agree they would like to see the Sangster Motors name continue for many more decades.