Two generations of Marquardts invest in community, service, and a load of licorice
Daniel Marquardt still remembers his first day of work with the Marquardt Buick and GMC dealership in Barrington.
He was 13 years old, and had begged his father for the previous two years to let him come to work. Finally his father caved in, and brought him to the dealership. He introduced Daniel to the Service Director, and said, “Tell him to do anything you want him to do, and if he doesn’t do it well, fire him.”
Daniel’s father, Larry Marquardt, opened the dealership in 1950. Larry always had an interest in cars, and decided to go into the business after returning from the Korean War. He started off working in a Ford store, and eventually realized he needed to be his own boss.
Now the dealership is owned by his two sons, Kurt (President) and Daniel (Vice President). Over sixty years, the dealership has become the longest and most established auto dealership in Barrington.
Growing up in a family of 12, each child in the Marquardt family had to work at the dealership at some point in their life, getting to do all the “dirty chores,” as Kurt said. But despite this family rule, the parents actually discouraged their kids from following the family line of work.
“With our parents, it was a very interesting dynamic because it was the opposite of nepotism. They really wanted us to follow our dreams,” Daniel said.
However, this did not keep Kurt and Daniel away as they both decided to join the dealership, and later would take over the business after their father’s death 16 years ago. While Daniel always had a dream of working with cars, Kurt didn’t decide until college that this would become his chosen path.
“I was faced with, ‘Do I go into grad school or do I go into business?’, so I pretty much decided my senior year that I would go that direction,” Kurt said.
Kurt and Daniel have worked hard to keep the ideals of their father. They both believe in the value of creating a positive customer experience. Driven by their customer focus, the business has a customer retention rate that is three times higher than the average dealership.
Often, they will meet customers whose parents and grandparents had also bought a car from Marquardt.
Customer satisfaction is not the only value Kurt and Daniel picked up from their father. They also learned the importance of getting involved in all aspects around the shop.
“Our offices are right next to each other, doors are open all day long. We’re both fluid around the store, talking to customers and talking to employees,” Kurt said, later even joking that he needed to go put a belt on the heater after the interview.
The Marquardt dealership is very involved in the community. The father was a founder of the Barrington Chamber of Commerce, and Kurt and Daniel have also held several positions within the community.
Marquardt also hosts the annual Drive 4 $50 event in the community, where they select six or more charities and organizations to participate. Through this event, members from each organization can come to the dealership and test drive a vehicle of their choosing, and Marquardt will donate $50 to their organization for each person who test drives a car. There is absolutely no cost to the beneficiaries.
Marquardt is a place that values tradition, and one of their longest running trademarks is the licorice they offer around the dealership. The red candy has been with the company since its roots, and can be seen in all their advertisements.
In the 90’s they (briefly) decided to get rid of the licorice, and quickly received backlash from their customers. They promptly realized their mistake and brought back the tradition. The popular candy is something their customers remember them by.
“Does licorice have anything to do with cars? No, but that’s not a bad thing… it heralds back to those days of just a small-town, family-run dealership,” Daniel said.