Herman Cook Volkswagen in Encinitas is celebrating a big birthday this month and is planning a party to commemorate it.
The dealership, at 1435 Encinitas Boulevard, has been in business for 50 years since Herman Cook opened it in 1967.
Cook — who began working for Riviera Volkswagen of Manhattan Beach in 1956 and came to Encinitas with his family in 1966 — acquired the land, near Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real. San Diego County officials predicted the area to be the hub of the booming city, said Cook's son, Dennis Cook.
"We all kind of lucked out, and it turned out to be a great location," said Dennis, who has served as president and owner of the dealership since his dad retired in 1980. "In the early days, Encinitas Boulevard, which was then called San Marcos Road, was a two-way road and El Camino dead-ended there. It didn't go south. South was nothing but sagebrush and cacti."
Now, the area is adorned with businesses and is a high-traffic area in Encinitas.
Dennis said he has also continued to support the city, having served as president of the Encinitas Rotary Club and served as both the chairman and a member of the Board of Managers at the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA.
"The community is changing," he said. "It's not the sleepy little surf town that it once was. But there are still a lot of people who have lived here for a long, long time and we're fortunate a lot of those people continue to do business with us."
Dennis, who has worked at the dealership since he was 13, said the dealership is now serving third and fourth generations of the same families. People come back because of the business' "family-friendly environment," he said.
Both of Dennis' sons work at the dealership as part owners, making the business a true family affair that Dennis hopes to extend to the customers.
"We want you to come in here and feel like you're being treated like you're a member of the family,” Dennis said. “You're not just a number. We don't subscribe to a lot of the tactics that corporate-owned stores use to try and sell cars. We want to respect everybody. When they leave, after they buy a car, we want them to have great, big smiles on their faces, not horrible headaches."
Herman Cook Volkswagen's Yelp page supports Dennis' thoughts about his business.
One user wrote in February that "this dealership does everything possible to make it a hassle-free process."
Dennis said he enjoys working in the car business because he believes car buying should be enjoyable, and not an inconvenience.
"I enjoy being with people," he said. "Usually people don't come to a car dealership because they're really happy to spend a lot of money. It's not the first choice of someone's discretionary income. When someone comes in and says they were afraid to come buy a car, and we're able to find a car that meets their needs and have them leave smiling, that's a real rewarding thing for me."
He considers Volkswagen vehicles to be reliable and ever-evolving to keep up with modern technology, while still "staying true to the German engineering and being a step above their competition, both in the fit and finish of the car and in the quality of the car."
Herman Cook Volkswagen will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a public event on Saturday, July 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the dealership. Featured activities include a Vintage Volkswagen car show, with vehicles from 1967 or older, as well as free food and drinks, raffles and kids games.
For more information, visit cookvw.com.
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