The Deichmann brothers — Mike and Pete — of Trent Cadillac Buick GMC, said the 2018 Community Fabric Award for Business Leadership caught them by surprise earlier this month.
“We didn’t see that coming,” said Mike, president of the dealership, which was founded by the family 61 years ago. Pete is the vice president.
The Deichmanns may have been surprised because they said that community service has been a part of the family tradition, started by dad Donald and mom Gretchen, who lived to be 98.
“They were always very involved in community and civic matters,” said Mike, who washed cars and did other jobs around the dealership dating to his school days. For years, Donald was known outside the dealership for his radio show with George Nelson called “Let’s Talk About Fishing.”
“New Bern was a great place to grow up,” said Mike. “We had boats and that was your transportation back then.”
While the CFA is for contributions in Craven County, their work and gifts to charitable causes extend into Pamlico and Carteret counties.
In announcing the awards, which will be given at the annual luncheon April 24 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, the CFA noted that “Trent Cadillac Buick GMC has consistently been a supporter of innumerable nonprofits and initiatives in our community.”
The list to which the brothers and the dealership donated, sponsored and supported is a virtual who’s who list of local nonprofits.
Some of these include Religious Community Services, Partners in Education, New Bern Military Alliance, Promise Place, Coastal Women’s Shelter, New Bern High Bears Club, Craven County Hospice, Craven County Special Olympics, Relay for Life, Wreaths across America, Craven Literacy Council, Craven Community College Veterans Memorial Park, Boys & Girls Club, ACT, Heart Ball, Chamber Summer Concert Series, Rotary Club, Tryon Palace Foundation, Trent River Raft Race, Craven 100 Alliance, Cherry Point Air Show, Make-A-Wish, Special Olympics, Craven Chapter of Autism, MS Society, Folds of Honor, Relay for Life, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Twin Rivers YMCA, Diabetes Society, St. Paul’s Catholic School Reach for the Stars Gala, Ducks Unlimited, Craven Arts Council, Navy League of the U.S. Coastal Carolina Council and local churches, fire departments and law enforcement entities.
“We are really supportive of the military especially, because they bring so much to the community and volunteer work,” said Pete.
The Deichmann brothers call themselves “real lucky,” although Don’s initial business philosophy has not changed — “making a customer for life.”
“Once you have that customer, it is just a lot better business to keep them,” he said. “How you do that is to have better service and all that goes with.”
The brothers have adopted a similar philosophy with their employees — most having been with the business for years.
“We try to keep our employees for life and we have been pretty successful with that,” Mike said. “Pete and I just do it together. He is more of the general manager of the whole place. He does the hard stuff.”
“Mike is the personality of the sales,” Pete added. “We have been real lucky in who we have hired. We have hired some terrific people. I can think right off of four who are in their mid-50s who were barely in their 20s when they started.”
“They have become our best friends, so we are real involved with them,” said Mike. “They all know the philosophy of a customer for life.”
He called the service department “the real heartbeat of this place,” referring to having seven of the 15 world class designated technicians in the state.
The Deichmann family came to New Bern from Durham, where father Donald Deichmann had worked as general manager for Uzzle Motor Company — the largest Cadillac dealership in that area.
He opened Trent Oldsmobile Buick on what is now South Front Street in New Bern in 1957.
“He (Donald) wanted to be near the water because he grew up on the Chesapeake Bay,” said Mike Deichmann. “So he came to New Bern and I think there were only about 11,000 people.”
In 1962, Don built and relocated to a new facility at 1707 U.S. 70 East.
In those days, the brothers remembered it was a rather isolated area.
The new shop had 10 service bays, three sales offices, and an outdoor new car showroom.
The brothers eventually went on to college — Mike to North Carolina Wesleyan as an English major and Pete to then Atlantic Christian as a business major.
Mike returned home and joined the family business as head of the service department and Pete later joined the family team.
Mike Deichmann joined Don in 1963 and worked his way through the service and sales departments until Don’s death in 1970.
He purchased the company stock and was approved by General Motors as the youngest dealer in the country. Pete joined him in 1971 and they have worked together ever since.
The dealership has grown over the years, more than doubling the size of the service department, had three major renovations, and now occupies more than six acres. GMC was added in 1993, with the slogan, “Think trucks, think Trent.”
The brothers remain proud of the sales and service and lowest tire price guarantee.
But their real pride is making community friends and customers “for life.”
Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook at Charlie Hall.