More Than a ‘Knack’ for Selling Cars Keeps Woman Busy
It takes more than just a “knack” for selling cars to stay in the business.
Janet Kueker has raised the bar on longevity in terms of car sales. She has worked at Menard Auto Sales in Ruma for the past 52 years.
She began as a bookkeeper/secretary after completing high school. Except for a three-month stint in St. Louis in 1964, she has worked at Menard ever since.
Originally from Prairie du Rocher, Janet went to high school at the Ruma Convent where the “day students”attended school with the postulants. However, as was the time, the girls didn’t mix, and were not permitted to speak to one another. “That was the time,” Janet said, adding “if you applied yourself you could get a good education.”
Before Gibault Catholic High School was built, girls rode the bus from Chester, Ellis Grove, Red Bud and Prairie du Rocher to attend the convent school. When Janet graduated from high school, she thought about college briefly, but again, not that many young women went to college then. She went to St. Louis to find work, which she did but really preferred being closer to home.
Rodger Menard opened the car dealership June 1, 1958. Janet began her job in 1964, doing the bookkeeping and banking. Then, she said: “I got bored.” She began mentioning to Rodger that she would like to try selling cars. He didn’t respond right away.
Then she told him about selling jewelry for a business in Red Bud and making a particularly hard sale of an item of jewelry. He listened, and the time was right — one of the salesmen was leaving, and Janet got the job. It was 1984. Not many women were selling cars then, but Janet was. “I probably know more than the average woman about cars,” she said. However, “if I don’t know an answer to someone’s question, I don’t ever make anything up.”
Familiar with people “shopping around,” she said she is sometimes surprised about what other, larger dealerships might tell customers because some of that information is not true.
I learned to sell by listening,”she said. Already knowledgeable about the paperwork, the contracts and the banking, she just needed to start the selling. “To sell, you need patience,” she said. “We hardly ever have a person walk in, drive a car and say ‘I’ll take it,’” she said. “We have to listen to what customers say.”
Over the years Janet has sold cars multiple times to the same people. And that’s what she wants. “We want a life-long customer,” she said. “We want them back.”
Janet said she relies on her faith to guide her, treating people like family. In fact, the dealership is a short distance from St. Patrick Parish in Ruma, her parish.
Her home is near her parish. “This is my neighborhood,” she said. “I love what I do or I wouldn’t be here. I love to sell cars to nice people.”
Janet said she learned a lot from Rodger, whose son Rodney is now running the dealership. Rodger looked for the positive when dealing with a potential customer.
Even a customer who comes in with an offer that’s way too low is a potential customer, Janet said he told her. “It was a positive” for him.
Rodney Menard said he knew Janet as a child, and now as her employer he sees her role as a woman salesperson as a positive as well. “It’s a plus having a woman salesperson,” Rodney said. “She makes everybody a friend.”
Taking care of customers and making sure they receive great service and a positive experience at the dealership is important to her and the rest of the staff at Menard’s. It is, after all, the oldest Jeep dealership in the world, they said.