Before Julie Kohar was the Service Advisor at Hilton Head Buick GMC Cadillac in South Carolina, she had a different life. We’re talkin’ a totally different industry, a different city, and a different “alter ego.”
“I was Jumpin’ Julie on the radio as a DJ for almost four years,” she said. “I really liked it, but it was a challenge as far as money. Then I got married, and I talked to my father-in-law, who worked at a Toyota dealership in Pittsburgh. He helped get me in the door at the dealership as a cashier. I took that job while pursuing my radio career.”
Though her father-in-law introduced her to the dealership world, Julie was no stranger to cars.
“I’ve always loved cars, even when I was growing up,” she said. “My grandfather bought me a Barbie doll and a Matchbox car. I was a tomboy. I liked my girly stuff, and I liked my cars. When I was 16, I met my husband and he was always building cars. I liked helping put parts on and fixing things up.”
While living in Pennsylvania, Julie worked as a cashier at the dealership during the weekdays. She spent her nights and weekends on the radio.
The schedule became a grind. She realized she could make more money at the dealership.
It was time for Julie to make a decision – and that decision became the first step towards a path that led her to Garber.
After weighing the pros and cons, Julie decided to end her days as “Jumpin’ Julie.”
“I decided to go full-time into the automotive industry, and I jumped from being a cashier to an advisor at the Toyota dealership,” she said.
After working in different roles at various dealerships, she was recruited by Chrysler to work as a sales rep. Their offer forced Julie to once again make an important decision.
“I went through the interview process with Chrysler, and they wanted to send me to New Jersey,” Julie explained.
The location of the Chrysler gig made Julie pause.
“I wanted to go south,” she said. “My mom and step dad moved to South Carolina in 2015 and she was like, ‘You need to move down south.’ I was toying with the idea of getting my dream job to work with Chrysler, or moving somewhere where I was going to be happy because it was nice and southern. I visited my mom and decided to send my resume to Hilton Head Automotive.. I came down for an interview and was hired.”
Julie was on the cusp of a whole new life. She didn’t even know Garber was about to be a part of the equation…yet.
The Real Deal
In July 2016, Julie made the jump from Pennsylvania to South Carolina to work as a service advisor at the Hilton Head dealership.
Then Garber acquired the dealership in 2018. Julie wasn’t surprised at the change in ownership… but she was nervous.
“I have been through multiple changes at all of the dealerships I’ve worked at,” Julie said. “I could see the potential of this dealership, and we weren’t really getting anywhere. We knew something needed to happen. It was inevitable. But of course, I was nervous about who was going to come in. I did my research once I found out Garber was going to take over.”
All it took was one conversation with one person to calm Julie’s nerves.
“Dick Garber came walking in the door all smiles, and he said to me, ‘I hear you’re a Pittsburgh fan’ since he’s a Lions fan, but I don’t fault him for that,” Julie laughed. “I found it absolutely cool that he was so down to earth and wanted to talk about football first. I went away from that conversation feeling way more comfortable. I had high hopes from there.”
Julie noticed positive changes immediately after Garber took ownership.
“When Garber came in, we got more structure, which is what we needed,” she said. “We had better inventory coming in. We were able to service more cars. We also hired Shane Gault [General Manager of Hilton Head Buick GMC Cadillac] who brought good people with him who are go-getters to join our team. Shane cared to learn and get his hands dirty with us, and I know that’s partially because of the motivation from Dick and leadership.”
As Julie continued to work for Garber, she became more impressed with the genuine attitude and care exemplified from the top down.
“Dick was a real person,” she said. “He wasn’t just all about being corporate and business and discussing numbers. He wanted to know the people, and he introduced himself to everyone. I knew GMs who didn’t do that, let alone the owner. There was not one person who was forced out of here when Garber came in. Garber has the mind, heart, and business in the right place. That’s a winning combination.”
Turning the Radio Up
When Julie worked for other dealerships, the morning drive to work was less-than-enjoyable.
“I used to get a nervous-sick feeling going into work, wondering what is going to be micromanaged,” she explained. “I did not feel accepted; I was looked at differently because I was a woman. But it’s different working at Garber. I now get in my car in the morning and I put my music on and turn my radio up and I’m smiling as I drive to work. I’m happy to be here. I’d rather be here than anywhere else. Being at work is a good feeling.”
Her list of things she appreciates about Garber is long, she said.
“I appreciate so many things that this dealership does,” she said. “They recognize our work anniversaries; they showcase dealerships; they help us to get to know one another and our organization. It’s cool. Plus Garber allows me to be me. I have my Pittsburgh roots and my Steelers stuff around. They let me have time off when I need it; we actually get lunch breaks and vacation. I feel appreciated here.”
Not only does she feel appreciated, she knows customers are appreciated, too. It is reflected in the dealership’s dedication to service and safety from the best of the best.
“Customers can be confident when they come here,” she said. “We have technicians that have moved here from all over the country because they wanted to better themselves. These techs have been top tier in every place they’ve lived. They are experienced. They know these cars in and out. The advisors we have here have come from other dealerships and mention how Garber is so focused on customer service. We care SO much for the customer. We want customers to get on the road as soon and safely as possible. In other shops and service departments, there’s a lot of turnover. It’s solid here.”
Thanks to Garber, Julie said she’s grown as a person.
“Working for Garber has made me grow as far as seeing there are people that can fix a dealership, turn it around, make it right and really mean it,” she said. “Most of the time, I’ve seen people who are just in it for the money. That’s not the case here at Garber.”
She said she gets the most important thing while working for Garber: happiness.
“I could work somewhere else, but I don’t want that,” she said. “I want to be happy. I make money here, sure, but I also get happiness. That’s what I get here at Garber. You aren’t even considered a person at other places. Here, I get to be me. I trust this company.”
First job? My first job ever was working for a trucking company. I was in safety and training and the recruiting department.
First car? 1991 Chevy Beretta and still own it.
Three things you can’t live without? Milk, singing, love
Something people would be surprised to know about you? That I’m an only child. I can wiggle my ears. I’m a vocalist. I sing anything that is belting, from country to hard rock. I’ve been in several bands. Passin’ Thru is our band name.
Best piece of advice you’ve received? My grandmother said, ‘Kill them with kindness.” Even if someone is upset and in a bad mood, I want to try to turn it around and make them smile.