As originally published in Texas Border Business newsprint Edition
By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
“I have been blessed, no regrets,” that is how Kirk Clark, local artist and automobile dealer feels when he is asked on how his life has been. He was born in McAllen, Texas in 1946 to Charles and Dorothy Clark and has one younger sister, Robin who resides in Austin. He has been in the auto business for 54 years and an artist for the same amount of time. “I love the automobile business and I love being an artist,” states Clark. He is the CEO of two very successful automobile dealerships; Charles Clark Chevrolet Co. that has been in his family since 1933 and Clark- Knapp Honda since 1993; the last one is a partnership with the Knapp family.
The General Motors Company (GM) produces a brand of vehicle under the name “Chevrolet” also known as Chevy. On November 8, 1911, Chevrolet was originally founded by Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant (ousted GM founder) and later acquired by GM in 1917.
GM, under Alfred Sloan’s direction, positioned Chevrolet’s mainstream vehicles to compete directly with Henry Ford’s 1920’s Model T. ‘Chevrolet’ or ‘Chevy’ has been at times synonymous with GM. In North America, Chevrolet offers a full range of vehicles from subcompact cars to medium-duty commercial trucks.
Clark’s involvement in the automobile industry began even before he was born. “I am a 3rd generation car dealer and have grown up in the business.” He is not shy when he says that he loves the challenges and the competition, “I love working with people. It has been lucrative.”
His parents’ enthusiastic collecting and involvement in the contemporary art scene greatly influenced their son. In 1956, as a ten-year-old boy, Kirk Clark began his artistic journey when he created his first oil painting titled, “The Lone Cypress”.
His ability to create unique drawings in combination with vivid colors made him what he is today, a great artist. Clark studied sculpture and drawing in the mid 60s. “I have an under graduate degree from The University of New Mexico, a degree in social psychology, and sculpture and drawing, a minor in English, anthropology, and political science,” Clark stated.
The variety of mediums he has experimented with, are a feast for the eyes and a source of inspiration. Kirk’s unique work, ranging from one of kind drawings, ornate totemic sculptures, monoprints, and jewelry, have been featured in galleries and universities in Illinois, New Mexico, South Texas, and Mexico and have captivated collectors throughout Mexico and the United States.
As an automobile executive, Clark loves the auto business and its challenges. “I get to work every day with wonderful, talented, hard working associates and I love our customers,” he states. When he says he likes competition he means it. His company is the number one volume Chevy dealer in the Rio Grande Valley. He said that he is proud of their national recognition for sales and customer service “but it doesn’t compare to being number one in my home town,” Clark states.
In 2007, Kirk Clark was selected as GM’s Dealer of the Year in the Rio Grande Valley, one of about a hundred in the United States and likely the only GM Dealer of the Year residing in the Valley. Clark is human, however when he is in a sale mode, there is nothing that stops him from achieving his goal. Texas Border Business learned that at the age of 16 while working for his parents during the summer Clark made headlines when he successfully made “50 sales in fifty days”.
Clark wanted to be successful and he wanted his Dad to be proud of him. However in his enthusiasm to get the job done, he failed to remember the most important skill a salesman or for that matter any person can have is the ability to listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to respond.
“My father knew I was trying very hard. I was the first one in every morning and the last one to leave the dealership but I was running a lot of customers off,” Clark stated. His Dad brought him into his office and told him, “Son you know that God gave you two ears and one mouth, because he wanted you to listen twice as much as you talk”.
After that talk with his father, Clark learned that people have the tendency to listen while formulating a response instead of listening clearly to what the other person has to say. “That was the case with me,” Clark said.
While trying to sell he was over anxious and as a consequence ran customers off. Clark’s father explained about the power of listening even further and he understood very well. “All of a sudden the light in me came on and I said; he is absolutely right!”
That afternoon Clark went back to the sales floor, the same room where for two weeks he had failed to sell a vehicle. That afternoon he sold one car and from there on he sold as many as 50 cars more in 50 work days. “This was very exciting for me,” Clark said.
Clark is very involved in everything he does in business; one item that he shared with Texas Border Business is the expansion of his Insurance Agency. Charles Clark Insurance Agency expanded into a full line agency offering a full range of products including casualty, medical, and life insurance. “I can’t wait for my son Daniel to finish college and come on board,” he said enthusiastically.
On the other side, Clark keeps himself even busier with the activities of a mentor, philanthropist, and his love for the arts. As far as mentoring he is a firm believer in equality, in helping young people to become all they can be by mentoring and trying to inspire them to think about a no limits attitude and that it is really up to them.
“All of our habits that we allow ourselves to have in life tell who we really are. The choices that we make form our character. It is important that as adults we do everything we can to share the best experiences with our young people; and let them know that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel but tell them they have to develop character because character is not something that you are born with.”
As a philanthropist he is current with the Good Samaritan Services in Pharr, Legacy Art in Albuquerque, Art with a Heart, UTPA Ethics Bowl, STC’s Scholars Program, Rio Grande Valley Symphony Orchestra, International Museum of Art and Science, and Trinity Episcopal Church in Pharr where he has been a member for 52 years and currently serves as Senior Warden and Eucharistic Lay Minister.
As for the Arts, Texas Border Business asked the opinion of Alma Ortega Johnson, President of Wells Fargo Bank and Vice president of the Board of McAllen International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS). Ortega Johnson said, “Kirk Clark has been a pivotal element in continuing the legacy of philanthropy established by his parents, Charles and Dorothy Clark. For many years, the Clark Family has been a major supporter of IMAS. In addition to Kirk Clark’s financial support, his artistic talent and advocacy for the arts and sciences has led to an extensive contribution of exceptional works of art to IMAS for display and fundraising purposes. In turn, the museum has the privilege of displaying his artwork, and the works of many great artists in a gallery space that prominently and gratefully carries his name.”
Clark says that he has the best of both worlds. I have been blessed by family, friends, associates and customers, as well as art fans. Kirk Clark has been married for the last 28 years to Jeri Clark.
“I am a fortunate and blessed husband, Thank you Jeri; and a father to Charlie, Anne, Alex and Daniel. I get to work with the finest people I know and work for The Best Customers on the planet. I have been blessed, no regrets.”
Clark has a black belt in Aikido, he loves to fish and hunt, to write poetry and he is working on his 2nd book. “I love art all together, however I paint and sculpt. I have future art shows planned at UTPA, Paris, France and now Hong Kong,” he stated.
When Texas Border Business asked how he would like to be remembered when he leaves this earth, he replied, “I want to be remembered for providing a good living for my family and having provided leadership with integrity to my businesses, church, and community.” TBB
Written by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez is the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year Award Winner & The 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Award recipient.
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