FAIRFIELD — Jim Hasapis grew up working in his uncle’s grocery business. But it was his grandfather, a mechanic for the railroad, who made the biggest impression.
While still in elementary school, Hasapis learned to replace all eight spark plugs, filters, and do an oil change on his grandfather’s 1963 Chevy Impala. The first time, it was a three-hour task. A few years later, Hasapis could do the job in less than 30 minutes.
“He was teaching me patience,” said Hasapis, who is the general sales manager of Kia of Fairfield. The dealership, owned by Todd Barnes, began selling Saturns 15 years ago. It became a Kia dealership four years ago.
Hasapis’ first job in the car business came when he was in college and worked for Swift Dodge in Davis washing cars. The married father of four has been in the auto business since he was a a teen.
“This is a smaller mom-and-pop organization,” he said of Kia, which in 2014 is marking its 20th anniversary in America.
Hasapis sees his first job as taking care of the staff and the customers. Happy staff means happy car buyers, he said.
“We have a lot of fun here,” he said. “We are like a big family here. It’s so important to have quality relationships with people you work with. You see them more than your family when you’re awake.”
A staff of about 26 work everything from bookkeeping to repairs.
Instead of keeping a desk upstairs, Hasapis’ office is off the sales floor. Off to the right is a glass display case featuring an award the dealerships recently won for customer satisfaction.
“It tells me we are doing the right things,” Hasapis said.
While Fairfield is in the name, the dealership serves the area. About half the business comes from outside the market area, Hasapis said.
He learned early on the customer is the boss.
“No amount of money I spend on advertising can offset an unhappy customer,” he said.
The business has evolved. Today many people find the dealership on the Internet. The same place offers the buyer a lot of information about the product they are interested in.
“Today we are more information specialists than sales people,” Hasapis said. That means customers also have an idea of what they expect to pay for a new car. Hasapis keeps the invoice book on his desk.
While he strives to bring perfection, Hasapis said hitting excellence is a great thing, too.
“And we just may exceed the customer’s expectations, too,” he said.
Hasapis is known to pick up customers’ cars and drive them to the shop for scheduled maintenance. He also drops his car off in the process so the person isn’t without a vehicle for the day.
That’s just one of the things that has sold John Stone on Hasapis and Kia. Stone purchased his first car from Hasapis more than 20 years ago. That tradition continues as Stone has nine children.
“He’s honest,” Stone said of Hasapis. “You know you are going to get a good price and service.”
Stone said he won’t consider going to anyone by Hasapis.
Hasapis works five to six days a week. A short day is 10 hours or less. A long day clocks in at about 14 hours, he said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.