Tradition drives Jerry Seiner Dealerships' philanthropy

Friday, Oct. 18, 2019
Tradition drives Jerry Seiner Dealerships' philanthropy + Enlarge
Chris Hemmersmeier, CEO of Jerry Seiner Dealerships, believes that supporting the Catholic Church is important.
By Linda Petersen
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — With more than 350 employees, the management at Jerry Seiner car dealerships could be forgiven if they weren’t very hands-on with all of them. But that’s just not the Jerry Seiner way. The company motto, “Making Friends to Last a Lifetime,” isn’t just some key words put together for marketing purposes — Jerry Seiner didn’t just coin them, he lived them. Although Seiner passed away in 2017 after a battle with cancer, his legacy lives on the company he founded and in the support and service his son-in-law and CEO Chris Hemmersmeier shows his employees, customers and the community.

Many of those employees have worked for the company for many years, a rarity in the industry. One example is Mary Anne Moyle, who was working for the Duaine Brown Chevrolet dealership that Seiner purchased when he came to Utah from Michigan in 1980. At that time, Moyle was an 18-year-old switchboard operator. Today, she is still with the company, having worked her way up through the ranks with Seiner’s encouragement to her current position of secretary treasurer.

“I think our long-term employees have stayed with us because we do try to do business the right way; we do try to take care of our customers and our employees,” Hemmersmeier said. “We really think of this as a business family, not as just employees.”

It was a mindset that started with Seiner and has continued as the company has grown. In addition to sales of new cars, Jerry Seiner dealerships offer used cars and service at all locations.

“Jerry liked to help people grow; he was a people person,” Moyle said of Seiner. “So he encouraged me with at least three of the moves I’ve made within the dealership. He was very good about developing people and trying to help you see what you could do.”

Moyle said she hopes to continue her career at the Jerry Seiner dealerships. “It’s such a wonderful place to work; it has been for so long and has been such an opportunity,” she said. “I’m very loyal and I feel like they’re very loyal; that’s the Jerry Seiner way.”

Over the years Seiner grew the business from one dealership to nine. Like many of his employees, Hemmersmeier started out selling cars after he moved from Chicago to Salt Lake City in 1991. He worked his way up in the company and acquired the majority ownership in the dealerships in 2012; Seiner continued to be involved in the business as chairman of the board until his passing.

“We really want to treat all of our customers and employees as friends,” Hemmersmeier said. “I think if we treat them as friends that means doing the right things for them. We want to solve their transportation needs in a way that fits for them.”

Moyle, an Immaculate Conception parishioner, was thrilled to see how much Seiner, who attended the St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center, supported the Church in Utah. For Seiner it was a way to take care of his extended family, and his daughter Sandy and son-in-law Chris Hemmersmeier feel the same way.  Like his father-in-law, Hemmersmeier has contributed to local Catholic causes.

“Chris has always been very dedicated to the Church and has taken care of the Church,” Moyle said. “I love to see that, especially here in Utah. He doesn’t do it in a showy way; he just does it because that’s what’s in his heart. He really tries to take care of his extended family.”

For close to 20 years the company has donated a new car to be raffled off at the annual Carmelite Fair, the primary fundraiser for the nuns. Hemmersmeier intends to continue the practice in the future.

“We do it year after year because my understanding is that the fair is the most significant place where the Carmelites raise funds for their existence, and we just appreciate their mission and what they bring to the community,” he said. “We want to support them in our small way like the rest of the community that comes together during the fair.”

The Hemmersmeiers, who are Cathedral of the Madeleine parishioners, also donate to the Madeline Choir School and Judge Memorial Catholic High School. All three of their children attended both schools; Stephen has now graduated from the University of San Diego; Tim is a senior there, and Sean is a junior at Loyola. Sandy Hemmersmeier is also a Judge graduate, while Chris Hemmersmeier served as the school’s board chair for a number of years and is currently a member of the Madeleine Choir School board.

“It’s important to support the Catholic Church, which does so many good things in the community, like Catholic Community Services, the St. Vincent de Paul center, what the Carmelites do,” he said. “All of those particular missions I think need corporate support. They can’t get it done with just donations from the Sunday collections anymore. I think supporting a diverse environment is good for the state of Utah.”

“We want to continue to give back to the Catholic community that has been very supportive of our family,” he added.

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