With a honey-tinged voice and a no-nonsense attitude, Charlie Zook has been successfully pushing metal since 1954.
Starting as a salesman and advancing through the ranks to sales manager, general manager and then to dealer (he bought his own store in Sioux City in 1967), Zook has twice been nominated as TIME Dealer of the Year. He won the award in 1999. With the roots he has in his community, it's no surprise.
The World War II veteran has been a support beam of reliability in the Sioux City community since he started calling it home. He has been active in the United Way, president of the Chamber of Commerce and served on the boards of local hospitals and colleges and the Salvation Army. He has made a handful of state-based commitments, including a role as Iowa's Political Action Committee chairman and the state's insurance trust.
After all these years, it takes a lot to rattle Zook, but winning the TIME award definitely caught him by surprise.
"I was just amazed. I could not believe that I was actually picked from 20,000 new car dealers across the nation. I didn't think I had any shot at all. I think it's the highest award you can get in our industry," he said. At age 84, Zook attributes his years of success to always remaining accessible to his customers.
"My name is in the phone book," he says proudly. "You have a problem with your car, you can call me."
Which is exactly what one woman did - at 2:30 in the morning - during a blizzard.
"You know what I did? I got up, went and started her car. That's what you do. That's the way you should run a business."