His plan was to be a mechanic, but as so often happens in life chance encounters and a series of opportunities led Gary Mroczek down a different path. And he is thankful for every step along the way.
The oldest of five children, Mroczek grew up on a farm near Loup City, and graduated from Loup City High School in 1979. He had settled on becoming a diesel mechanic and after high school enrolled in Hastings Community College.
After college Mroczek landed in Cozad, where he went to work for Ralph and Howard “Howdy” Benjamin. Though he enjoyed his job and had a great deal of respect for Howdy, his first opportunity in the car business presented itself in 1982.
“There was a sales job available at Vannier Ford in Gothenburg, and I got that job. They had an indoor used car operation in Cozad in the Hansen Waters building (formerly Chipper Hall) and I started working there,” Mroczek recalled. “Leroy Copple taught me the ropes of car sales and customer satisfaction.”
He worked at Vannier Ford for about two and a half years when another opportunity came his way. “In October 1984, Gary Schultz approached me to come to work for him at Platte Valley Auto of Lexington. He opened a satellite store in Cozad, where I sold cars for seven years.”
In 1992, Schultz and his partner, John Saathoff purchased Simon Motors in Gothenburg and renamed the dealership Pony Express Chevrolet in 1993. Mroczek began managing the dealership and remained in that capacity until he and his wife, Deb, bought the business 10 years ago.
“Gary and John just approached Deb and me about purchasing the business so we did it. It’s the best move I’ve ever made,” Mroczek said. “The people of Dawson and surrounding counties have been very supportive and appreciate having a local dealership.”
While many businesses are trying to navigate through unfamiliar waters of uncertainty right now, Mroczek said that is a normal way of life in the car industry. Many factors play a role in the ever fluctuating market he said. For example, if corn or beef prices are down that can greatly affect his business.
“The nature of the business is challenging. I try to read and listen to the markets and listen to other business people in the area to what’s going on,” Mroczek explained. “We have targets for every year and we break those down by the quarter and by the month. You really just have to break it down according to the demographics of your area.”
Mroczek credits a great deal of his success to the people around him. “I feel very fortunate to have surrounded myself with good people that help pull the business together. And the communities around here have been very generous,” he said.
Five years ago the General Motors facia facade was added to the front of the Pony Express Chevrolet store. “We do upgrades every year. I have to give a big thanks to Paulsens, Inc. who helped us make it a GM approved building,” said Mroczek.
About 18 months ago he also purchased Big John’s Ford in Minden, which is now Pony Express Ford. Mroczek is also part owner of Heartland Chevrolet in Lexington.
“My favorite thing about my job is the people. We have a lot of repeat customers,” said Mroczek.
Though many civic groups and organizations will tell you that Mroczek is very supportive of local endeavors, that is not something he likes to talk openly about. “I really prefer to just stay behind the scenes,” he said. “I do like to contribute to anything that’s kid oriented within the community, like the rodeo, baseball/softball programs and things like that.”
He has also been involved through the years in the Chamber of Commerce having served on the board, is a member of the Gothenburg Improvement Company (GIC), serves on the Nebraska New Car Dealers Board and is on the board at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church.
“My favorite way to spend my time is with my family, and especially my five granddaughters,” Mroczek added.