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Glendale Dodge Chrysler Jeep
“I could not have done it without my father’s guidance. He taught me to be good to my customers, to be involved in my community and to be good to my employees.”
“The most rewarding part of my automotive career is the long-term relationships that I have developed with my employees,” nominee Ellis said. “I enjoy seeing them and their families grow and prosper.”
A 1972 graduate of St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, Ellis earned a B.A. in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in Westwood in 1977. His career in the retail automobile industry began long before he graduated from college, as he worked as a lot attendant at his father’s store, Jack Ellis Chrysler-Plymouth in Glendale, starting at age 16.
“While attending UCLA, I would sell cars during the summer and on weekends,” Ellis said. Upon graduation, he attended a Chrysler dealer training program in Detroit, Michigan, and became sales manager for his father’s dealership soon after. “The entire sales staff quit and went to work with the former manager,” he remembered. “I called three of my college friends and offered them free new car demos if they would come and sell cars for me. At that time, it was not typical for a salesman to be a young college kid, but we were very successful.”
Building on that success, his father bought a Chrysler dealership in 1980 in Canoga Park, California, and put Ellis at the helm at age 26. Ellis eventually purchased the store in 1990 and took over the Glendale operation when his father passed away unexpectedly in 1999. In 2015, he sold the Canoga Park dealership, calling it “a bittersweet moment.” Today, he runs Glendale Dodge Chrysler Jeep with two younger brothers, Jackson and Evan Ellis. His daughter, Caroline Craun, is the store’s administrative assistant.
“The car business has been my life’s work,” Ellis said. “I could not have done it without my father’s guidance. He taught me to be good to my customers, to be involved in my community and to be good to my employees.”
As current treasurer/secretary of the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association and the group’s president from 2011 to 2013, Ellis understands the importance of the automotive industry in the local economy. “Our association represents more than 200 car dealers in Los Angeles County, employing 20,000-plus people in good-paying jobs,” he said. “We collect millions of dollars in sales tax revenue and have invested $250,000 in worthy charitable causes in the last fiscal year. We pride ourselves on being involved in a host of community organizations that make the world a better place for our customers and their families.”
On a personal level, Ellis enjoyed his work with Junior Achievement, a group that prepares students to be successful in the global economy, while volunteering at a local junior high school from 1985 to 1991. “I visited an 8th grade classroom weekly, teaching these great kids about the economics of the car business,” he said. “I even had a contest where they could design my weekly advertisement and I ran the winning ad in the local paper. I have heard from many of the students through the years, and some have even come in to purchase cars form me!”
Ellis is also a member of the Rotary Club of Woodland Hills, California, and supports Glendale Youth Alliance (providing jobs and training to low-income youths) and Villa Esperanza Services in Pasadena, California (offering educational programs for children and young adults with developmental disabilities).
For his community involvement and business acumen, Ellis has received numerous awards. He has donated his time and talent to the Canoga Park-West Hills Chamber of Commerce; West Valley Family YMCA (Reseda, California); and Valley Cultural Center (Woodland Hills).
“I really enjoy the opportunity to help my community,” Ellis said. “As an auto dealer, I have the resources to be involved with so many important and worthwhile organizations.”
Ellis was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Bob Smith, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association. He and his wife, Janet, have three children and one grandchild.