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Episode 055

Robin Smith Salzman

Owner, Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

by | Apr 27, 2021

Show Notes:

In this episode, I’m sharing with you a conversation I had with the owner of Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, Robin Smith Salzman. Robin and her husband Jack have built one of the premier automotive dealerships in North Carolina since moving to the area 18 years ago. But, the focus of our conversation in this episode revolves around another topic that’s near and dear to our hearts – animal rescue and pet adoption. Robin and her team have been great advocates for several local humane society organizations and animal rescue non-profits, and I think the work they’re doing would make for a great topic for this podcast. 

As always, listeners thanks for joining us – enjoy the episode.

Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Transcript:

Speaker 1
Welcome to the Best of LKN, a podcast featuring the best small businesses and the most influential professionals around Lake Norman, North Carolina. Each week, we spotlight those businesses and individuals that are making a positive impact here in the Lake Norman area. Thanks for joining us. Enjoy the show.

Jeff
Hey, everyone, welcome back to the Best of LKN podcast. In this episode, I’m sharing with you a conversation I had with the owner of Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram, Robin Smith Saltzman. Robin and her husband Jack had built one of the premier automotive dealerships in North Carolina since moving to the area 18 years ago. But the focus of our conversation in this episode revolves around another topic that’s near and dear to our hearts, animal rescue and pet adoption. Robin and her team have been great advocates for the local humane society organizations and animal rescue nonprofits. And I think the work they’re doing would make for a great topic for this podcast. As always, thanks for joining us. Enjoy the episode.

Jeff
Robin, welcome to the podcast.

Robin
Hi, how are you today?

Jeff
I am great. I’m so glad we were finally able to schedule this meeting. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to to talk with me and share a little bit of the Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram story on the podcast. But also I’m really looking forward to diving into some of the nonprofit work that you’ve done in the area, specifically with animal rescue and humane society and pet adoption. So, before we get into those topics, share with the listeners, Robin, a little bit of your background, a little bit of the story about how your career prior to ownership of Lake Norman Dodge, and and then and how did that event transpire? How did, what was the inspiration behind purchasing the dealership?

Robin
Okay, well, I’m going way back. I was born in Pittsburgh, and then my family moved to Florida early on. I graduated from University of Central Florida with a biology degree and really thought I was going to become a doctor, and then things kind of got sidetracked in life, and we all know how that is. And my career ended up being in radio broadcast. I was in the sales end, and for quite a few years, I started as a sales rep, and moved into management. And when I left Florida, I was the market manager for three radio stations for CBS Broadcasting. So that then became my career was in marketing. So when my husband who worked for in automotive for a long time, walked into my office and said, “How do you feel about North Carolina?” I said, I don’t know. We’ve never been there. So he brought me up one weekend. And it happened to be similar to this time of year where everything was blooming and beautiful. And we came to the lake and I said, “Well, that would be like being on vacation year round.” So I said okay, he said we have the opportunity to buy into and partner on Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. And what do you think? And he goes, you can retire. So he said, right. So I said, okay, sounds great. So up we come. And then he said, “Can you handle the advertising for us for a while?” I said, well, that was 18 years ago that that happened. And I’m still handling the advertising and enjoying every minute of it. And then that blossomed into when we got here I said, “You know, this area is so community that we have to make sure that we do our part.” And McIntosh Law Firm, and Bob McIntosh was a person that I looked up to and I said, you know, we need to be like them. Everywhere I went, I heard about Bob McIntosh and the McIntosh Law Firm sponsoring events, and I said we need to be like them. So that was 18 years ago. And so I’ve tried really hard to make sure that we give back in our community, and that we do our part. So that’s kind of how that all transpired, and he got his way.

Jeff
Yeah.

Robin
Told me I could retire, not so much. Right? So I changed my career and we work together and we love it and enjoy it. And it’s you know, it’s been a great move for us. We just love the lake area.

Jeff
I did notice in my research that you’re not only co-owner but marketing manager or director of marketing as well. So that explains that and yep, yeah, funny how that works.

Robin
It is, it is funny how that works and but it’s it’s been great. Like I said it’s been 18 years, we’ve been here 18 years now. And in the 18 years and five years ago we bought Gastonia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, and enjoy that market also, along with the lake and then we opened last year, we purchased the used to be the Michael Waltrip building where he had his race shops and now we have our custom shop in there which is Carolina Custom.

Jeff
I’m familiar with Carolina Custom, that is really an impressive expansion that your company made into the the old MWR building there in, was that Liverpool Parkway?

Robin
Yes, it is.

Jeff
Just around the corner from the dealership. What a complex, and the work that’s going on over there is super cool. The owners of SpeedPro Imaging, were guests on this podcast last summer. And I think they were in the middle of some mural projects there at Carolina Custom that they showed me photos of.

Robin
Yeah, beautiful work they did for us. Yeah, you’ll have to come over and see us.

Jeff
I do. Yeah, I want to do that. I would love to get a tour that would be a lot of fun. Before I forget I have to mention that I have two older sisters, the younger of the two also graduated from University of Central Florida with a degree in biology.

Robin
Very small world.

Jeff
So yeah, she she was in her intention. That was her idea of pre-med also, her intention was always to become a doctor and but you know, like most of our careers, it’s not a straight line, it’s a curved, a winding road, right? So she is in a completely different field. But still, but well I shouldn’t say completely different field, still in the biology and medical field, but not a physician. So yeah, that’s that’s awesome. What part of South Florida did you say you lived in?

Robin
Central Florida, Orlando.

Jeff
Oh, okay. You were in Orlando.

Robin
Yeah.

Jeff
And McIntosh, Bob McIntosh has also been mentioned quite a bit by my guests here on the podcast, he’s helped quite a few of these small businesses, with their, with their legal needs, and they all speak so highly of his firm. So shout out to Bob McIntosh. Let’s dive into the some of the nonprofits that you’ve worked closely with in the Lake Norman area. I have noticed through some of the dealership marketing that you are involved pretty deeply with several humane society and pet rescue and adoption agencies in the area and nonprofits. Let’s talk about a few of those and please share their names and how we can learn more about them.

Robin
Perfect. Lucky Cat comes to mind first and foremost for me. And that is the effort to trap, neuter, and release back into the, into the community, feral cats. And how I really got interested in that was, we had a cat. Her name is Mickey. And she was hanging around the dealership and we found she was eating her meals out of the McDonald’s dumpster. So that’s how she got her name Mickey. And one winter a few years ago, we decided that it was just too much of a worry for us that she was outside in the freezing temperatures. So I said oh, what are we going to do? You know, she’s feral. How do we handle this? That’s how we called Lucky Cat, which is was started by Abigail Jennings from Lake Norman Realty. And Robin Byrd that was her executive director for the charity helped us. And now Mickey, that wild feral cat, you can come to the dealership and see her lazing the days away in her bed in the middle of the showroom. And she’s on a diet because she gets fed way too much. She doesn’t have to hunt for her food anymore. So she just saunters around from person to person, all the salesmen and everybody carry treats in their pockets and she just has the life, she has the life. So anyway, that is one organization that we love, Lucky Cat, and they do a lot in the community to help with feral cats because it is something that we all you know have in all of our communities. And you just don’t even really realize it and they help to manage that. So that it’s the population is not overrun, so we love them. I also love Lake Norman Humane Society, is a great humane society. That is a rather new humane society because Humane Society of Charlotte we also like to support and we run a program called Jeep Dogs for the Humane Society of Charlotte. And what we do is we send down somebody from the dealership with a Jeep, and they load in one at a time, the available large dogs, we take pictures, and we do a little summary about them, we post them online. We have really enjoyed that and they’ve loved it because it’s really helped them adopt out quite a few dogs. So the Humane Society of Charlotte’s a great one and then Lake Norman Humane Society opened a new facility just a few years ago and we provided a vehicle for them. And another one would be Piedmont Animal Rescue. They do a lot in helping the humane societies and helping people, they have a big foster network so they foster out you know have fosters for the dogs and cats until they’re adopted. So we also really enjoy working with them. They’re the three that come to mind for me immediately that we do a lot with in the animal rescue here locally.

Jeff
Yeah.

Robin
We also a little bit go outside of, we fringe it also, you know the lake is our home. But I also have gotten calls and helped Anson County Humane Society, Catawba County Humane Society, and then Stanly County Humane Society is one that is near and dear to us because we adopted our last little rescue from Stanly County. So you know, it’s a widespread concern, an issue with so many homeless animals. So we do our part, it’s just something that we really enjoy. We have four dogs of our own, and then of course, Mickey that I mentioned at the dealership, so we’re animal lovers, and we really enjoy being able to help them.

Jeff
That is wonderful and these organizations are always in such you know, real desperate need of resources and assistance so that it’s, I just love that you, that you have connected with these nonprofits and provided so much assistance to their organizations. We’re a dog and cat family at home too. We have two dogs and a cat. I mentioned them all the time on this podcast. A ten-and-a-half-year-old chocolate Labrador who’s a really good boy and a three-year-old English Bulldog, who is really sweet, but she is she is a Bulldog, so she’s the boss. You know, she kind of gets her way but she’s super spoiled. And we have a cat that we adopted from an organization down in Lake Wylie area called Saving Southern Kitties. And the cat was in addition, at the request of my stepdaughter Abby when she was a teenager, and it took a PowerPoint presentation by Abby to to finally convince me to greenlight the idea. And even though I knew it really wasn’t up to me anyway. I appreciate that she at least convinced me to agree. And of course then the cat, you know, I was the one that didn’t want the cat, but now the cat is like one of my best buddies.

Robin
That’s great.

Jeff
Yeah, she’s really sweet too. So I love that. Abigail Jennings, I obviously with the podcast, we do a lot of promotion and outreach on social media. Abigail, I do recognize her name, I’m almost positive that I follow her Instagram account here on the podcast. So I had no idea that she, I didn’t know, I feel awful that I didn’t know that she was she was the founder of the Lucky Cat organization. So I’ll definitely tag her in the promotions as well.

Robin
Excellent.

Jeff
Yeah. The Jeep Dogs initiative is super cool. I love that. That’s really neat. Very, very cool. And then we had Lucky Dog Bark and Brew, the owner Kelly Waugh was a guest on the podcast last year. And she gave a big shout out to Piedmont Animal Rescue as well. And also I think Carolina Big Hearts Big Barks. It’s another organization in the area.

Robin
Oh, I’ll have to write that down.

Jeff
Yeah, Carolina, it’s either Big Barks Big Hearts or Big Hearts Big Barks. But they’re a large, yeah, they’re a large breed rescue.

Robin
Uh huh.

Jeff
So that would be worth looking into as well. I know that Lucky Dog and they do a lot of work together. And I’ve had the really great luck and pleasure to have a few veterinarians in the area on the podcast as well. Davidson Veterinary Hospital, Main Street Veterinary in Cornelius, and a few others have been recommended as well. So. But that’s great, I will definitely share all of the information, the links, and so forth for these nonprofits that you just mentioned in the show notes.

Robin
Wonderful.

Jeff
And share anything, I’ll certainly follow them on social media as well. Now, so while I have you on the line here, I have to ask, you know, what were some of the challenges do you think that these organizations faced during the pandemic? Every business and family in general had, there are an awful lot of challenges that we had to navigate during 2020 and into the beginning of 2021. A lot of pivoting, as everyone likes to say the word of 2020, I think was pivot. And can you shed some light on some of the challenges that these organizations may have faced during 2020 and how, you know, that might be changing for the better?

Robin
Sure, I think the first thing would be fundraising. For them, they had to cancel all of their gala events, all of their golf tournaments, you know, all the getting together and having a good time to raise funds was cut out. Some of them did a really great job of putting together virtual events, and turning those into like, Humane Society of Charlotte did a big virtual event, and they asked some of us to do home parties. So like I did a home party, had eight people for dinner, we watched the virtual event on my TV screen, we were able to bid online for auction items, and we were able to raise money. So you know, they found a good way to overcome that, partially. It’s never the same, but it’s something, so I think fundraising was a tough one for them. Also, just being able to go out and showcase their animals for adoption, you know, you just couldn’t do that. So they had to get a little more creative, I think. And a lot of them even the shelters had to close up and couldn’t allow visitors in to look for their animals. So I think they just got better at that they made it through there was a lot of adoptions because a lot of people were lonely. A lot of people sheltering in, got animals, you know, but on the flip side of that, is now they’re having an influx of animals being dropped off, and people are getting back out there again, right, to work, or moving for jobs. And oops that pet that I got when I was sheltered in now is a lot of work for me, or now I’m moving and can’t take him or now, so we’re having an influx of animals, and that’s always sad. And but you know, there’s a there’s a lot of really great organizations and smaller rescue groups that do a really great job of bending over backwards and foster, you know, families that take multiple animals and, and there’s a really great effort in our area. And I applaud all of them for that because I have four of my own, so I don’t foster because I would not know how to give them back. So I was like, you know, too many. But you know, my contribution is I am blessed enough to be able to financially help. I also have no problem telling everybody and rallying the troops and using part of my marketing, that budget for my dealership, I share that and a lot of times, you know we’ll run print ads for the organizations or include them in my radio or put up a billboard for them to help them spread the word and shout from the rooftops that they need help.

Jeff
Yeah, I love that. The the fundraising that, the challenge of fundraising in 2020, that doesn’t surprise me. I know a lot of nonprofits had, I think every nonprofit had enormous fundraising challenges in 2020. The influx as we kind of come out of the, the quarantine, so to speak, but you know, the influx as we as we roll into as things begin to open up, and vaccinations continue to be distributed and comfort levels are increasing, and people are getting back out, the influx of animals into the shelters, that is sad to hear, and unfortunate for sure. That’s not something I had thought of, and that surprises me, and that’s unfortunate. But thankfully, there’s a lot of organizations that hopefully can help rehome these these animals. So another one of my favorite questions for my guests on the podcast is when we can kind of recognize and give shout outs to other area, small businesses. And I’m sure that there are probably some small businesses that have partnered with you as well to help benefit these nonprofits. But really, I leave that open to you know, any small business in the area that has perhaps been just really great advocates for these nonprofits or have been helpful to your business during 2020. Anyone you want to give a shout out to?

Robin
Well, I think that definitely, and we’ve mentioned her but Abigail Jennings and Lake Norman Realty, you know, she not only runs Lucky Cat, but you know, many times she’ll have food drives and ask people to drop off, you know, cat food so that they can supply that to the foster families into the, in her case, it’s not foster families, but it’s the people that are helping to trap the animals and feed them in the colonies, you know, that there’s there’s food provided. So Abigail is a is a huge benefit and help in our community. A few others would be Lake Norman Transportation is one and Cindy Adcock. And then Greg Biffle is a name that some people will recognize. And the Greg Biffle Foundation is, he’s very active in animal rescue in our community, and that’s a great thing. You know, he brings a lot to the Lake Norman Humane Society, he sits on their board, and he does a lot there. So those are just a few of the names that come to mind for me quickly that, you know, people that I’ve partnered with and done things.

Jeff
That’s interesting, I did not know that Greg Biffle was on the board at the Humane Society, and I will definitely follow up and and start following his work. That’s news to me, and I’m surprised that I wasn’t aware of that. So that’s really cool. I love to hear that, that’s really neat. Another topic that I love to ask my guests are to recommend any books in the areas of, normally it’s in the areas of personal development or business, small business, marketing, that sort of thing. But I’ll leave it open for you as well, if there are any titles in the area of animal advocacy,

Robin
You know, when I saw this, you know, in the email that you sent me, I thought, oh, gosh, I’m gonna have to come clean now and say, I don’t have any. Because I don’t know why I don’t, you know? And I need to. I just, anything that I know about, anything I’ve just learned in conversation with people. I haven’t read any books or listen to any podcasts or anything other than just listened.

Jeff
Yeah.

Robin
And I go where my heart follows me. So I can’t help you on that one.

Jeff
That’s quite all right. Yeah, that’s okay. And that, and I appreciate your honesty. I see. I’m, if I were in your place, I may have, you know, made up a book or two. I may have checked out the latest Forbes list of best business books or something and named a couple, but I appreciate that. Yeah, no worries there at all, you know, and you’ve probably, as far as the animal advocacy, through your networks, you know, like you said, through discussions and, but also in your business and you know, owning your business and in your business career, it’s probably just been a lot of networking and give and take and advice from other business owners that you’ve networked with over the years, so I’m sure there’s been a lot of value in that.

Robin
Oh, absolutely. Well, my husband teases me and tells me I’m old school. I do things, you know, I just haven’t kept up with the times whatever he means by that. I don’t know, anyway, Yes, I do. You know, I just, I get the most out of just having conversations and listening. And he and I have always, my husband, Jack and I, have always been a good source for each other, because we think totally differently. We usually get to the same results, end result, but we think, we get there in totally different ways. So it’s always, for me, he’s always my first one to bounce things off of, and we have great conversation, and it’s probably why we’ve been able to work together. First of all, why we’ve been able to stay married so long, and why we’ve been able to work together so long, because we, you know, we just enjoy a conversation with each other in business, as well as otherwise.

Jeff
Yeah, that makes total sense. It is so helpful to have a partner in the business, whether it’s a spouse or a family member or a close friend or, or strictly a business partner that just brings a complimentary set of skills and a complimentary perspective, perhaps, and opposing views occasionally, so. So yeah, that’s definitely helpful, no doubt about that. So I will, I’ll definitely look up all the contact information for these nonprofits. And what are the names of your dogs?

Robin
Oh, our dogs are Annie, Auby, Auby is named after Auburn, because my husband graduated from Auburn (Auby), and then Belle, and we have a chihuahua, his name is Taco. So we have four, four rescues that are all little, little ones. We have the small breeds.

Jeff
Yeah. Yes. And so definitely a full house so I can understand why you’re not fostering. Like me, it sounds like we would both end up with eight dogs instead of you know, two or four. So I get that. Yeah. Again, I’ll have all the links in the show notes for these organizations and the businesses that you recognize, including McIntosh Law Firm, and Greg Biffle Foundation, Lake Norman Transportation, and Lake Norman Realty. Robin, how can listeners learn more about Lake Norman Dodge, Jeep, and Ram? And how can they learn more about any events that might be coming up?

Robin
Well, to learn more about the dealership, the easiest way to learn more about anything nowadays, right? Is you Google it and go to the website. So everything you need to know about us is on the website, of course, we’re open. And we’ve been opened as an essential business throughout the pandemic. So anybody’s welcome to stop by and we’re doing all of the CDC guidelines. So everybody’s comfortable with masks and social distancing, and cleaning regularly and all that so, you know, but the best way is online, and to find out about us, but you know, I, if somebody wants a Jeep or somebody, you know, say with Carolina Custom, you know, we’re there for all the transportation help that anybody wants, but, you know, for me, our work in the community is so important to us, because it’s amazing, the amount of, people will come in and say, we came to you because you love animals and so do I, or we came to you, because we saw you, you know, that you support Make-A-Wish, and we have a child that received a wish, or whatever it is. So it’s been, the 18 years has been incredible for us. And it’s been incredible getting to know this community and being able to be a real part of the community. Because, hey, you know, we have beautiful jeeps and we have beautiful vehicles, but so do many, many other dealers. So, you know, when people do business with us, they want to, you know, it’s like a family too, we have 200 employees now, and, but it’s still run like a family business, and a community type, family business. So that’s important for me to be able to say and to tell people and to give people a reason why they should come do business with us, because, you know, we think it’s so important then to also give back in the community that makes things good for us and our employees. It all ties together and our employees are very involved too. And they love it. We keep them very up to date on what we’re doing. We involve them when we can, in our community giving. We did a fence build for Holly’s Hope. Holly’s Hope is a local small organization that was doing fence builds for animals. You know, unchain your animals? Like don’t tie up your dogs to a tree, you know, let us come build you a fence. Yeah, so we did a fence build as a group and our employees really enjoyed it.

Jeff
That’s really cool. Yeah, I love that. And I have not heard of that initiative either, Holly’s Hope, I’ll do some more research on that, and share anything I can as well on social media on the podcast.

Robin
Great.

Jeff
Yeah, you do have quite the Jeep selection. Quite the Jeep Wrangler selection, I should say at Lake Norman Dodge Jeep. I noticed, I pass the dealership every day and my shop and my office is in Cornelius as well, so amazing. Do you have any stats, any data you can share with us as far as like, you know, any records that Lake Norman Jeep has set in Jeep Wrangler sales or anything like that?

Robin
If Jack was here, he’d be able to give us this exact, but I know that a while ago, a couple months ago, he was very excited that we were number one in the country for Wrangler sales.

Jeff
Wow.

Robin
So, in little old Cornelius, you know, and a few years ago, we were the TIME Dealer of the Year for the country, which was also one of those things when, when it was announced we were in Las Vegas at the NADA, National Automotive Dealers Association, you know, convention, and we were announced as TIME Dealer of the Year and then people were like, where’s Cornelius? You know, you have to say, oh, outside of Charlotte.

Jeff
Yeah, yeah.

Robin
North of Charlotte. But, you know, it’s that award for us was so important because it was based on, not just our sales in the dealership, but mostly because of our community involvement. So, you know, it really made us feel good that our fellow auto dealers that we know, you know, that they also were very, recognized us as being a dealership that does good in a community.

Jeff
Yeah, absolutely. That’s quite an honor when not only the organization selects you, but you’re also selected by your peers. And that’s really, that’s really a tremendous honor. One last thing before I forget, I also want to thank you and Lake Norman Dodge Jeep and Ram for supporting Make-A-Wish. My oldest stepchild is a wish kid as well. And we’re big fans of the work that Make-A-Wish does. So thank you so much for that.

Robin
Oh, absolutely. Yes, it’s yeah, that’s another one of our ones that’s very near and dear to our heart. And we, I’m getting ready to have a wish granted, in our home, we just built a new home on the lake. We moved in last year, the week of the pandemic coming down, and stay home for two weeks. It was good, I could empty all my boxes. But Make-A-Wish asked me if I would do a mermaid party.

Jeff
Oh, wow.

Robin
They have the challenge of, they can’t send the children to Disney right now. Which is the number one thing, the wishes that children want. So they asked me if I would do a mermaid party. And I said absolutely. So we are very busy and excited about preparing for our Make-A-Wish mermaid party.

Jeff
That’s awesome. I love it. Yeah, very cool. Well, thank you so much for that. And Robin, I just want to say that this has been a real pleasure. It’s been an honor to have you on the podcast. I really look forward to sharing this conversation with listeners and promoting these nonprofits that we discussed and also just, you know, sharing some of the great work that Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram is doing in the community. We all know it. It’s just nice to get reminded once in a while and hear a little bit more of the story behind all of this. So, again, the company is Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram and Owner and Director of Marketing, Robin Smith Salzman. Robin, thanks again for your time. Really appreciate it.

Robin
Thank you so much.

Jeff
I do love a conversation about dogs and cats. Many thanks to Robin Smith Salzman for joining the podcast and sharing the work she and her team are doing for local animal shelters and humane societies. I’ll have links to the organizations we discussed in the show notes. And as always, the complete show notes for all of our episodes can be found at the home for Lake Norman’s number one small business podcast, www.thebestoflkn.com. While you’re there, please consider signing up for our email newsletter. It’s free and easy to sign up and a great way to show some support for this podcast. You can find the forum on our homepage. Don’t worry, we’ll never spam you and we’ll never ever share your email address with anyone else. Thanks so much for your support. We appreciate it. That will do it for this episode. Thanks so much for following along with the podcast. Remember to try to get out and shop a local small business this week. Another episode is right around the corner. Until then, cheers Lake Norman. Bye for now.

Speaker 1
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