Hard work and a strong bond unite three generations at Hedrick’s Chevrolet

Brett Hedrick with sons Blake and Tanner and father Bill Hedrick. (Photo by Valerie Shelton)

It’s not easy to be a father, especially when you put in as many working hours as Bill Hedrick did when his sons were growing up.

While a stringent work schedule often meant sacrificing vacation time with the family, Bill’s strong work ethic served as a solid foundation for his sons and grandsons, who have inherited his “get her done” attitude and passion for the car dealership industry.

It all started in 1959 when Bill was hired at Hallowell Chevrolet. Being a hard worker, he quickly worked his way up in the sales department and in the late 70s, he was offered shares within the company and became a minority partner. It was around this time, in 1978, that his son Brett Hedrick started working odd jobs at the dealership during his summer and vacation breaks.

After graduating from Cal Poly in 1984, Brett was hired on permanently and his dad and Mr. Hallowell encouraged him to attend dealer school, where he learned about each facet of the business. For 14 years after dealer school, Brett worked as a sales manager for Hallowell Chevrolet. Then, in 1999, Hallowell retired and sold his business to the Hedrick’s family.

Today, Brett’s oldest son Blake also works at the dealership and young son Tanner, who just graduated from Buchanan High School, also aspires to work in the family business once he completes college at his dad’s alma mater, Cal Poly.

The funny thing, all four say, is that there was never any pressure to go into the car dealership business—they all just genuinely enjoy the work.

“We’re not pushing either of these guys [Blake and Tanner] to come into this business,” Bill Hedrick said. “They are both going to have good educations and whatever they want to do is going to be Ok with me and their dad. Hopefully, they want to come here but if they don’t, it’s up to them. They have a life to live.”

“[My dad and grandfather] have always been so encouraging, saying ‘do whatever you want’ but we see a good example in what they have done and we see opportunities that dad can provide us and it’s what we like to do and it just so happens that it’s what he liked to do too,” Tanner Hedrick added. “It’s easy to follow in his footsteps and it is a good opportunity and we can still make our mark even if we are following that path.”

The Hedrick’s hard work philosophy goes beyond the dealership. The family also runs a cattle operation and much of their spare time is spent serving the community. Blake and Tanner’s mom, Sarah Hedrick, has also set a good example of hard work as a real estate agent.

“We aren’t sit around people,” Brett Hedrick said. “Someone asked me what movies I’ve seen lately and I have seen maybe one movie in the last 12 months because we’re always busy.”

The cattle operation has been run by Bill and his wife, Judy Hedrick, since 1962. Currently Blake and Tanner help their grandparents with the cattle and both are earning their college degrees in Ag Business—just like their dad.

“I like working with both my father and grandfather and also my brother because I feel like it is something common we all like to do,” Tanner Hedrick said. “With the cattle, I love going up there and being able to spend time with them and kind of put the hours in to sit back at the sale and just watch our hard work pay off. Then with the dealership, it is something I’ve wanted to do all my life and it is a goal. It gives me something to look forward to and something to keep my head on straight for and it is something I’ve always wanted to be a part of because I know it’s another extension of our family.”

Blake said being able to work with his father and grandfather in both capacities has been a blessing.

“It’s been fun and humbling,” Blake Hedrick said. “I’m thankful that they started me as early as they did. From the bottom, I’ve worked in several departments and I’m learning the workings of the store, which is crucial. It’s a blessing. At the same time, they’ve taught me humility through the work hours.”

For Bill and Brett, working together as a father-son team throughout the years has been a joy.

“We’ve never had a problem,” Bill Hedrick said. “It was the same way when [my son] James was here; not once did we have any disagreement that I can think of. Brett is a great guy and we have never had a confrontation, however I kind of let him do whatever he wants to do. It’s been a great thing for me and of course, this day and age, he runs the whole thing.”

Brett says the key to working together is mutual respect.

“I obviously respect him as my father and I respect him as a businessman and he did the training so he respects me,” Brett Hedrick said. “It is the same way with my son Blake. We are a family and he is finding out what the business is like from the other side and I respect the job he is doing now too.”

Generation to generation, Brett and his sons say they give a lot of credit to Bill for putting in the years of hard work so he could one day take over the dealership and give his family a better life than the one he had growing up.

“Dad was the one who broke the mold and was the foundation because he started from zero,” Brett Hedrick said. “He is the American dream and we’re the ones that got to build on it. My life is a little better than his and my sons’ lives are a little better than mine.”