While uncertainty looms for car dealers across the country — and even some locally — Courtesy Automotive Group’s Don Hargroder has been taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. In recent months he struck two deals with Lafayette’s Mann family to buy the Saturn dealership on Ambassador Caffery Parkway and the family’s Cadillac and GMC dealership in New Iberia, the latter transaction scheduled to close any day now. (The Manns retained the body shop and service and parts department in downtown Lafayette and will move the New Iberia body shop to a new location.)

Now Hargroder is hoping to buy Lafayette’s Schoeffler Cadillac from brothers Harold and Charles Schoeffler. Harold Schoeffler confirmed to Acadiana Business on Jan. 22 plans to sell the franchise to Courtesy along with a one-year rental agreement for the property at 1400 Surrey St. The property is owned by a larger group of Schoeffler family members.

“They won’t stay there,” 69-year-old Harold Schoeffler says. “They almost have to move. That’s been a push by General Motors to merge with Chevrolet or other GM brands to bring more brands under one roof.”

Schoeffler says the dealership was hurt by the national downturn but the devastating blow came when GM discontinued its lease program several months ago. Leasing accounted for about 40 percent of Schoeffler’s business. “That’s where our profit was,” he says.

Courtesy is headquartered in the old Service Merchandise building on Johnston Street, where Hargroder sells GMC, Pontiac and Buick. He also operates dealerships in Abbeville, Morgan City and Franklin.

Paul Stroderd, Courtesy’s general manager, could not be reached for comment before press time.

BRADSHAW LANDS NEW GIG


Jim Bradshaw, the former Daily Advertiser reporter and columnist unceremoniously forced into retirement by parent company Gannett, has landed on the front page of St. Martinville’s The Teche News, a weekly publication owned by the Moody family of Lafayette’s Louisiana State Newspapers. Bradshaw is continuing to write about the rich history of Acadiana in a column simply titled “Bradshaw.” His Jan. 21 column was headlined “Local judge put the ‘x’ on Cajun names.”

Ken Grissom, publisher and editor of The Teche News, says reader response has been positive. However, he says some readers were surprised that the paper snagged the local talent, who has four decades of experience. “Bradshaw and I go back a long way,” says Grissom, explaining that the two met in the early 1970s when both worked at The Advertiser. “He’s had many offers and just won’t leave the area.”

FIRMING UP

Preferring the structure of a small firm, four former Longman Russo attorneys decided to strike out on their own rather than merge their practices into Jones Walker. (“Jones Walker makes its move,” Turk File Nov. 2008).

Joel Babineaux, Camille Poché, Ted Anthony and Frank Slavich — all of whom were with Perret Doise before it was renamed Longman Russo after the departure of Hank Perret and Dennis Doise — have teamed up to form Babineaux, Poché, Anthony & Slavich in River Ranch. In June the firm will move to its permanent home on the third floor of the First Bank and Trust building at the corner of Camellia Boulevard and Silverstone Road. “Collectively we felt like joining a large firm would not be the best fit for us individually and for our practice areas,” says Babineaux, a labor and employment law specialist. Most attorneys think about striking out on their own, he says, explaining that the partners realized the opportunity may not present itself again.

Most of Poché and Slavich’s expertise is in mergers and acquisitions and business and commercial law, and Anthony specializes in intellectual property and oil and gas law.

“All of us did retain our clients and client base,” Babineaux says.

STULLER STEPS BACK IN

Sixty-seven-year-old Chuck Lein has retired after 15 years as president and COO of Stuller Inc., and company founder and CEO Matt Stuller has returned to daily operations as president.

Jay Jackson, executive vice president of the company’s supply chain, has been named COO. Jackson has more than 13 years of experience managing Stuller’s sales, supply chain and manufacturing operations. Prior to joining Stuller, he worked for 30 years in the product services division at Sears. Jackson was promoted to the post after a national executive search. “We need a COO who can roll-up his sleeves and dig into the day-to-day functions of our operation, without the added responsibility of president,” Stuller says. “And, we found no one better suited to lead Stuller’s operations than our very own Jay Jackson.”

The jewelry manufacturer and distributor has already been impacted by the national recession, having announced a round of layoffs early last year, and there is more uncertainty in what lies ahead. “I’ve agreed to take this on indefinitely as we expect 2009 to be a very challenging year,” Stuller says.

Last year Stuller laid off 45 employees — 2.5 percent of its workforce of 1,770 — in a realignment of its management team.

In announcing the cuts, Stuller cited the high cost of precious metal prices and the national economic outlook.

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