If there’s one constant in life, it’s change. That’s something Jane DeHaven knows all too well, and it’s something she’s learned to embrace. Her path to become the dealer operator/owner of DeHaven Chevrolet has been paved with adversity and adventure.
“When I look at my experience over the last 20 years, I just want to run out and tell every girl, every boy out there, ‘I don't care who you are! Anybody can do anything if you put your mind to it,’” says DeHaven.
Founded in 1964 by Jack DeHaven, Sr., the dealership has been a Fort Wayne staple for nearly six decades. The elder DeHaven died in 1995 and his son, Jack Jr. took over. When the younger Jack passed away unexpectedly in 2008, Jane, a young mother with no auto industry experience, was committed to continuing the family legacy.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can do this. I'm going to learn this business.’ I think at that point it felt like my only choice. I like to say that life is a journey and businesses follow journeys as well,” she explains. “There are ebbs and flows in your personal life, and there are ebbs and flows in the life of a business. We’ve managed to survive in some pretty rough waters. There’s been a lot of smooth sailing too, but we've definitely stood the test of time.”
The ability to adapt, evolve, and overcome is something DeHaven is especially proud of. Near the time of her husband’s death, she brought on a partner and the dealership was renamed Summit City Chevrolet. The very next year, General Motors declared bankruptcy, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of franchised dealers. All the while, DeHaven dove into rigorous training, graduated from the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Dealer Academy, and settled into running the day-to-day operations.
“I think people would be absolutely amazed at how involved she is in every aspect; from greeting customers to the service department to the parts department,” says General Manager Austin Asbury, who’s worked at the dealership for 31 years. “With her being here every day, it’s tremendously uplifting for the employees.”
DeHaven became the sole owner in 2017 and is excited about what she now considers to be a full circle moment – the renaming of the dealership back to DeHaven Chevrolet.
“The reason I think it really makes sense is because DeHaven Chevrolet was here for so long and even though we had the name change, we never really left. Fort Wayne is a city with rich tradition and DeHaven Chevrolet is undeniably a nostalgic part of its history.”
In addition to the name, the iconic commercials that promoted it are also making a comeback. “I want to bring the jingle back in some fashion, so we’re currently working on that. It takes a while to reinvent that wheel because it was an old wheel, and we have to make it sound fresh again,” she says.
DeHaven attributes the company’s longevity and success to the people who have been by her side for years. “We have an amazing team of 80+ employees. I think the other piece is grit and determination to survive certain situations. When you're in rough waters you learn a lot. We build relationships with each other first as a team, then with our customers and then with the community. That’s what we’re all about. There’s strength in relationships.”
Sales Manager Cruz Garcia agrees and says it’s one of the reasons he’s chosen to build his career there. “Working at DeHaven has provided great opportunities. We pride ourselves on promoting from within. Our last three or four management promotions in sales have all been from within. It all goes back to hiring good people, retaining good people, and helping them advance, grow and improve,” Garcia says.
True to its tagline, “One Family. One Focus. One Goal.” DeHaven says it’s important that the dealership give back to the community it’s called home for so long. She’s personally served on the boards of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Turnstone and Amani Family Services, and is an integral part of the Vera Bradley Classic planning committee. She and her team enjoy hosting events at the Illinois Road dealership, like Trunk or Treat.
“It makes me very proud to have a business in this community, as it’s a huge part of our success. We want to give back whenever we can,” she concludes.
Address: 5200 Illinois Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804
Phone: (260) 494-3443