Almost until the end — when Bob Crevier died at age 86 — he “suited up” and went in to work.
Although he got in a round of golf here and there, most days he was in coat and tie working from his promontory office at the spacious Crevier BMW in the Santa Ana, CA.
Now the largest-volume BMW dealership in the nation, Crevier BMW had humble beginnings.
So did Mr. Crevier. Those were recalled by family and friends after he died peacefully in his sleep on Nov. 23.
Born the oldest of five boys, his father was a farmer in South Dakota. During the Great Depression, the family moved to the “city” — Elf Point, SD (pop. 1,600) where his father began an insurance sales business.
In 1936, at age 20, young Bob Crevier boarded a bus for California. There he and three friends shared a one-bedroom apartment.
His first West Coast job was in a donut shop, but when the war broke out he went to work for Lockheed. He rose to a management job and began a family.
As the war came to a close, Mr. Crevier looked for new opportunities. He and one of his brothers purchased a Burbank restaurant. They converted it into an early drive-in.
Ultimately, they sold the restaurant. Mr. Crevier then started selling pots and pans door to door.
One of his fellow cookware salesmen had left that line of work for a job at Bob Smith Dodge in Glendale. In 1949, Mr. Crevier went to work there, too. It was his first stint at automotive retailing. He worked at the dealership for 11 years, first as a salesman, then as a manager.
In 1960, he decided to set out on his own and open a used car lot. But alcohol had become a big part of his life. After five years he closed the car lot. Friends in the business got him a job as used-car manager of a Volkswagen dealership in Reseda. That went well until the alcohol got in the way again.
Times were bad for Mr. Crevier. He was 50 years old, out of work and without a place to stay.
He moved in with his married son Don at his home in Laguna Beach. The younger Crevier was sales manager at Theodore Robins Ford in Costa Mesa.
Mr. Crevier joined Alcoholic's Anonymous. It was a life-altering decision.
When his previous employer learned that his health was improving, he was rehired at the VW store in Reseda. He worked there for more four years, becoming general manager.
In 1970, the dealer principal wanted to sell the business.
“My dad tried to come up with the money it took, but was unable to,” says Don. “A friend suggested a less expensive franchise like BMW was at the time. So with the help of his brothers Bill and Jack, he started Crevier BMW in 1971.”
The first few years were tough. BMW was relatively new to the U.S. market. It was not particularly popular outside enthusiasts' circles.
Mr. Crevier's first dealership was in part of a building at First and Broadway in Santa Ana. There were two hoists and six employees. They sold less than 10 cars a month at first.
But they stuck with it. The business grew. Soon Crevier BMW occupied all of the building, then the entire block as well as property across the street.
Don Crevier joined his father as a partner in 1974. The dealership kept growing. In 1987 it moved into its current facility, a vast complex in the Santa Ana Auto Mall in affluent Orange County.
Last year, Crevier BMW retailed more than 5,000 vehicles with an estimated $240 million in sales. The dealership ranks 46th on the Ward's Dealer Business 500.
“Through his determination and hard work, his little company has grown into one of the more successful agencies in the country,” says son Don.
Family and friends are impressed by Mr. Crevier winning the battle of the bottle, his openness and his desire to help others do the same.
His was an inspirational victory that led to success both as an individual and as a businessman.