The Passing Of Mr.Jack Helfman (A Brief History)
We have all been saddened to hear of the loss of our founder Jack Helfman. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and employees.
The following post is a brief history covering his business success as well as his charitable work in the Houston area.
South of I-10 on Washington Ave., on the corner of Brashear and Washington, there is a small white sign, with red letters reading “W&R Auto Sales”. It’s at this exact location in 1959 that Mr. Samuel Helfman (Jack Helfmans Father) opened a used car lot named Helfman Motors. For the next 13 years a young Jack Helfman would work side by side with his father,honing his sales skills, while at the same time, helping to build a successful used car dealership. The experience Jack Helfman gained in the next 13 years laid the foundation for what would be a successful 39 year relationship with Chrysler.
Fueled by the success of Helfman Motors, Jack began looking into the possibility of selling new cars. He had his eyes set on a small dealership, inside the loop, owned by a local businessman named Bob Ring. Soon the papers were signed, and in 1972 the Helfmans took control of River Oaks Chrysler Plymouth. Unfortunately Samuel Helfman would pass away shortly after the Helfmans acquired River Oaks Chrysler.
Under Jack Helfmans leadership River Oaks Chrysler would see great growth, even during the 70’s when Chryslers own financial health was failing. When asked what attributed to the dealerships success during that time, Mr. Helfman said “The Houston economy is very strong, we rely on repeat business, we’re centrally located…you take care of your customers, and you can exist.”Chrysler would receive a 1 billion dollar loan from the Federal government, and under the leadership of Lee Iacocca, would rebound. River Oaks Chrysler was already ahead of the game, and business grew.
In 1994 Helfman added Jeep to the River Oaks family. River Oaks Chrysler Plymouth was now River Oaks Chrysler Plymouth Jeep. This addition led to the expansion of the dealership, and in 1994 they added a three level parking garage, renovated the sales floor, added a second floor to house administration, and built a new three story parts warehouse. Over the years ROCPJ became one of the largest Chrysler dealers in the nation.
In the 80’s Houstonians started looking south for housing, and the city of Stafford was starting to see growth. Mr. Helfman predicted the southward trend, and purchased land just inside the Stafford city limits. Soon Mr. Helfman would break ground on his new dealership, and on Nov 11th, 1981 the doors opened to Helfman Ford. The dealership would see immense growth, and eventually span almost 16 acres, and employee over 200 workers. With the addition of Helfman Ford, Helfman Enterprise was almost complete.
In 2002 Helfman purchased land just outside the loop off I-10, a major artery between Houston, and the growing city of Katy. Soon he would begin construction of his third dealership, and in September of 2002 the doors to Helfman Dodge opened. Eventually both River Oaks and Helfman Dodge would have all four Chrysler makes under their roofs. By January of 2011 Helfman DCJR was ranked #1 in Texas for new car sales for Dodge, and #1 in Houston for Dodge Chrysler Jeep and Ram. In September of 2010 a proposal was submitted to FIAT in an effort to get approval to build a FIAT dealership. In October Mr. Helfman was informed by FIAT that approval for a new dealer was granted. Ground is set to be broken on the new facility this summer.
During Mr. Helfmans years of success as a dealer, he had been very involved in the community. For the past 30+ years he had been a major contributor to the Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care Services, a nursing home in the Houston area. Contributing not only money, but time. Throughout his years of service to Seven Acres, he donated wheel chairs, walkers, and other supplies as were needed. He also encouraged his children into the service of the elderly, and on many occasions they would spend their time reading to the residents. When it came time for the annual Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care Services Gala, he would donate a car or truck for raffle, and personally make the calls necessary to sell the raffle tickets. In 2001 Jack Helfman and his wife Elaine were presented with the 2001 Sprit of Life Award at that years annual Seven Acres Gala. But this is only one of many charities he has given to. He annually, contributed to: The United Jewish Federation, Muscular Dystrophy, March Of Dimes, United Way, and many others. Seven Acres is simply the one believed to have been closest to his heart.
Mr.Helfman has been honored over the years for many achievements. In 2004 Jack Helfman was the recipient of the 2004 Time Magazine Quality Award. This award is given to new car dealers for their exceptional performance in their dealership, and distinguished community service. This award is given to 63 dealers out of nearly 20,000. This is the highest honor achievable by a dealer. Mr. Helfman was a owner operator of Chrysler dealerships in Houston for almost 40 years and has owned or operated dealerships in Houston for 50+ years.
The Helfman group of dealerships employee 500+ individuals in the Houston area.
“We will miss your casual strolls through the dealership,that unmistakeable walk. We never knew where you might pop up. I guess you kept us on our toes.”