Gene Harchelroad was born in Palisade in 1928. His family moved around the area as his father, Harvey Harchelroad worked for various Chevrolet dealerships. They lived in Stratton, Cambridge, Holdrege, Amherst and on the family farm six miles north of Hamlet before settling in Wauneta in 1935. In 1935 Harvey established the family business, Harchelroad Chevrolet and in 1947 picked up the dealership for Massey-Harris farm machinery. Gene graduated from Wauneta High School in 1947 before entering the service. He served 18 months of active duty in Korea in the early 1950′s.
He was just 23 years old when life threw him an unexpected curve, putting him at the helm of Harchelroad Chevrolet Co. when his father died unexpectedly in 1952. But over the course of the next 50 years, Gene Harchelroad would grow that mom-and-pop car dealership into one of the most successful dealerships in the area and prove himself among the premier businessmen of Southwest Nebraska. Gene once said he saw good times and bad times in the business–dry years and wet years– but “it’s been a good life for all of us.”
Gene was honored in 2002 by General Motors as a 50-year dealer, only the third dealer to receive the honor during the 31-year career of General Motors executive Larry Hice. When accepting his award he thanked his employees and noted that without his wife Wilva he wouldn’t be where he was. Only a few months after receiving the award Gene passed away after his five year battle with cancer.
Over the years things have changed such as the announcement in 1987 that Harchelroad Chevrolet would sell three additional General Motors lines and change the business name to Harchelroad Motors, Inc. Or how about the fact that when Gene started he only had five employees and he grew that number to 36 employees in 2002 with the help of his two sons Sid and Brian. We can’t forget the fact that the Harchelroads also added a second location in Imperial. There is one thing that has stayed the same over the years; with hard work, the help of great employees and the support of family, a good business can continue to thrive.
Gene believed that if you treat the customer right the first time, you’ll have a customer for life. The Harchelroad family and employees still live by this motto today. Harchelroad Motors has become a fourth generation dealership with the addition of Sid’s son Dillon and has grown to 47 employees. Gene’s legacy will never be forgotten.