“I find it very rewarding that our automotive group has provided stable employment and given our employees the resources necessary to have successful careers,” nominee Yark said.
A 1975 graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School in Toledo, Yark earned a B.S. in accounting from Ohio State University in Columbus, where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He started out in the car business at Papenhagen Oldsmobile in Toledo, a store that his older brother, Jim, managed and eventually acquired.
“I started by mowing the lawn at the dealership when I was 15 years old and worked in various positions throughout high school and college,” he said. “Having tackled the most menial jobs, I was able to see the importance of everyone’s role at a dealership.”
Those insights served him well when his brother took over the business in 1981. “We knew that our success would be largely determined by our employees, so we focused on hiring the best and giving them the resources necessary to succeed,” Yark said. His brother passed away in 2013.
Over the years, their auto group has grown from a small Oldsmobile store to seven Ohio dealerships, representing brands Alfa Romeo, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Nissan, Ram, Subaru and Toyota, and employing 450 people. Yark’s son, two nephews and a niece are the next generation to join the family enterprise.
Yark is proud that his stores have been recognized multiple times on the annual 100 Best Dealerships to Work For by Automotive News, with Yark Subaru topping the list in 2016. “I am very gratified with the growth of our organization and the relationships we have developed with our employees,” he said. “Many of the people we started the business with are still employed with us or have retired from it.”
An active member of his state and local dealership associations, Yark sees the power of galvanizing forces to solve industry problems. “Whether on a local or national level, my role was to educate elected officials about our industry and what needed to happen so that dealerships could have a positive business environment and create more jobs,” he said.
He also brought car dealers together for a good cause when he was involved in creating Auto Dealers United for Kids (ADUK), the charity arm of the Toledo Automobile Dealers Association, for which he has served as chairman. The group raises money each year by holding a charity preview gala before the Toledo Auto Show, with the proceeds donated to area organizations.
“We have given almost $2 million to children’s charities since 2004,” he said. “In several instances our contributions have kept services going for smaller charities and we have also funded entire programs for larger charities. Making a difference in people’s lives, particularly the lives of children, is the greatest reward.”
Yark currently serves on the boards of the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce. He supports more than 70 charities, including the American Red Cross; Alzheimer’s Association of Northwest Ohio; Toledo Zoo & Aquarium; Toledo Museum of Art; Rotary Club of Toledo; Metroparks Toledo; The First Tee of Lake Erie (introduces golf to young people); The Arts Commission (Toledo); Toledo Symphony, as well as several area schools.
“Reflecting back on my start in the business, my deceased brother and I were very excited just to have jobs at a car dealership,” Yark said. “At this point in my career, I am thankful for what our company has been able to give back to the community.”
Yark was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Zach Doran, president of the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association. Yark and his wife, Karen, have three children.