Willie Racine’s Jeep has been treating customers like family since 1967.
Fifty years is quite a milestone. Fifty years ago, color TVs had just arrived, The Beatles and Diana Ross & the Supremes graced every person’s eight-track car stereo, and you had to be lucky enough to catch someone at home if you wanted to connect with them on the phone. Of the many things that have changed over the last fifty years, one thing remains the same: the friendly customer service and quality vehicles at the family-owned Willie Racine’s Jeep.
On September 26, 1967, Willie and Annette Racine purchased their Jeep dealership from a pair of retiring gentlemen and launched their successful family Jeep business right here in the Lake Champlain Region. They converted their auto and tire service center on Pine Street into a one-car showroom for Jeep and added a parts department onto the back end. They quickly developed a loyal following for their excellent service work through the years and many of these customers were excited to buy these new Jeep products from them. There was the venerable CJ5, the Jeepster Commando, Jeep Wagoneer and the Jeep truck, which many people relied on for plowing that relentless (but beautiful) Vermont snow.
In 1973, American Motors purchased Jeep and told Willie and Annette that in order to keep operating their Jeep franchise, they would need a bigger facility and also sell the American Motors line of vehicles. So, they purchased some land on Shelburne Road and opened the existing facility in May of 1974.
The first fall with the AMC franchise became a struggle as an energy and gas crunch hit the US and all of the current cars were not very gas efficient. A Jeep employee from the old days helped Willie and Annette sell off those gas guzzlers to some metropolitan dealers and make it through that tough time. More new Jeep products were coming down the pipeline and 1984 marked a big year for Jeep with the addition of the Eagle lineup of all wheel drive cars and the first major small SUV in America: the Jeep Cherokee. It was an instant success and Jeep became a major player in the automobile industry once again.
By this time, Willie and Annette’s three boys had all started working in the business: Michael was overseeing the Service and Parts Department; Doug was helping Annette with the Accounting while establishing himself as a State Senator; and Tom was overseeing the Sales Department. 1984 also saw the addition of the Isuzu lineup at the dealership, and a brand new sport utility was just arriving from Japan: the Isuzu Trooper, a lower-priced four wheel drive vehicle.
Willie and Annette eventually retired and the Racine boys still operate the family business today. Tom’s youngest son Brian came to work for the dealership in 2007 and is currently the General Sales Manager.
“The Racine family is proud of the type of honest and hardworking ethics our parents and grandparents instilled in us and we hope to carry on this legacy for many years to come. We thank all our valuable customers who have done business with us during these past 50 years. We hope to be able to continue to serve you for many years to come.”
Come to Willie Racine’s Jeep on Saturday, September 30 from 8:30 AM-5:00 PM and celebrate 50 years of a family that has been a fixture in the Northwestern Vermont landscape and has delivered wonderful customer service to our community for half of a century. There will be live music, food, refreshments and a chance to win a $50,000 Jeep! Meet Annette Racine (aka “Mom”) and congratulate her on building such an extraordinary legacy.
Can’t make the event? Enjoy Jeep specials throughout the entire month of September! Thank you Willie, Annette, and the entire Racine family for bringing years of quality cars and service to the Lake Champlain Region!