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"The most rewarding part of my career begins with the personal and professional associations this business has afforded me."
“The most rewarding part of my career begins with the personal and professional associations this business has afforded me,” nominee Kolar said. “The support and friendships of the people that make up the dealer network and affiliated associations are incredible.”
A 1981 graduate of Duluth East High School in Duluth, Kolar studied criminology and sociology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, also in Duluth. He never expected to get into the car business, even though his father and uncle had a Buick, GMC and Toyota dealership.
“With 10 children between them, they had a long-standing rule that no children were allowed in the business, with the exception of the occasional summer or part-time job,” he said. “I was the last of the 10 children and it was agreed I could stay for a year while deciding on a career path I wanted to pursue.”
Although his schooling prepared him for a job in law enforcement, Kolar fell in love with selling cars. “I felt I could still help people and be active in the community through an automotive career,” he said. “Knowing I couldn't stay, I worked in all departments at the dealership to broaden my knowledge as I prepared myself to move on.”
After the tragic death of Kolar’s uncle in 1991, his father considered selling the dealership but instead offered his son the opportunity to sustain the family legacy. “I furthered my education by attending a General Motors dealer academy program,” he said. “Ultimately, my father took me on as his partner in 1992 and I became dealer principal in 2000.” Today, the dealership group includes Toyota, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Hyundai. His father is still part of the business at age 90 and his son Joe, a graduate of Northwood University’s automotive marketing and management program, is on staff, while his other son Jack works part-time while attending college.
“It's has been very rewarding and humbling over the years to share our business growth with our more than 200 employees that have become like an extended family,” Kolar said. “Having successful dealerships has also allowed us to be actively involved in numerous charities and community events that make a difference in the lives of many in our community.”
To that end, Kolar’s dealership has worked with the Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota chapter of the ALS Association as the title sponsor of a local fishing contest and event for 11 years. The Kolar Toyota ALS Walleye Tournament at Island Lake in Duluth is his most rewarding civic achievement. “We donate $20,000 per year but that pales to the $200,000 the event raises each year,” he said. “Our team’s creativity and involvement in planning the event has been crucial to its success each year.”
Also for the ALS Association, his company sponsors the Black Woods Blizzard Tour, a three-day snowmobile ride and fundraiser. “The event raises more than a million dollars per year,” Kolar said. “Much of the money raised stays in our northern communities to help families cope with this terrible disease.”
Other groups Kolar has supported include Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which aids children and adults with disabilities; Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders in Duluth; and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, by hosting a holiday event at his dealership.
For his good works, Kolar was proud to receive the Service Above Self Award from his local Rotary Club. “I hadn't realized the impact I had on our club and what we accomplished,” he said. “The award was a complete surprise and very humbling.”
Kolar was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Scott Lambert, president of the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Tracey, have two children.