BARSTOW • When George Soutar first got into the car industry almost 50 years ago, there were six major dealerships in Barstow. Back then Barstow was a bustling town with plenty of customers and businesses — never an empty storefront, he said.
Today, a stroll down Main Street shows vacant building after vacant lot — until you get to Soutar's hill. The only new car dealership in town, Soutar's survival through the years is a testament to the strength of a family.
"It is a family business," Soutar said, smiling at his wife, son and daughter, who all work various aspects of the business.
Soutar's Family car dealerships, with two locations, celebrated its 50th anniversary last month.
The dealership was first purchased by Soutar's uncle, Jim Soutar, in 1962 and it has been in the family ever since, he said. In the beginning they sold Dodge vehicles, but added Toyota and Chrysler cars to their lot within the year.
"We are now the second oldest Toyota dealer in the nation and the oldest in California," George Soutar said.
George Soutar joined the dealership as a salesman in 1967 and shortly after bought 50 percent interest in the company, making him a partner. Today his son, Clint Soutar, and his daughter, Jill Jordan, both own stake in the company. Each of their grandchildren have also worked in the dealership.
His children say growing up in the car business was fun, but also a lot of work. As older children, Clint and Jill would scrub toilets and follow Dad around the dealership — a time they treasured with their father, they said.
They believe being a family business is what helped them survive all these years.
"Being a family is an advantage because we can do a lot of the work ourselves," Clint Soutar said.
George Soutar said he believes the company has survived so long by having competitive prices and giving good service.
"It's not much different than any other business," he said. "You've got to take care of your customers if you want to stay in business."
During the hard times, George Soutar said they watch their expenses, making sure to switch every light off when leaving the room. By far this last recession has been the "deepest," though he's confident they'll be able to survive until the upswing.
"I think if we've made it through the last four or five years, we won't be going out of business," he said.
To celebrate their 50 years, Soutar's is holding a monthly drawing for various prizes leading up to a grand prize drawing for a new car in April 2013.
"It really is quite an accomplishment for my dad, mostly because of his hard work," Jordan said.
"The whole family has worked hard," George Soutar said.
Soutar's: By the numbers
1962: Jim Soutar bought the dealership
40,000: Approximate number of cars sold in 50 years
$3,000: Average price of a car in 1962
$28,000: Average price of a car today