Kitchener-Waterloo

Retirement not an option for 97-year-old Gerry Kowalsky, Ontario's oldest car salesman

Ontario's oldest registered vehicle salesperson is Gerry Kowalsky, 97, who works at a dealership in Guelph.

Gerry Kowalsky works five days a week at a Guelph Honda dealership

Gerry Kowalsky, 97, started his career at a Kitchener Ford dealership in 1957 and is still working today. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

The first cars Gerry Kowalsky sold didn't come with seatbelts.

"There was no such thing," said Kowalsky, who started his career at a Kitchener Ford dealership in 1957 when a top-of-the-line vehicle cost about $3,100.

At 97, Kowalsky is Ontario's oldest actively registered vehicle salesperson, according to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council.

Kowalsky's career of 63 years and counting will be honoured by OMVIC and the provincial government Tuesday. The celebration will be held at the Olympic Honda dealership in Guelph where Kowalsky still works from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., five days a week.

"This is not the norm," said John Carmichael, chief executive officer of OMVIC.

"You've got lots of people that will come and go from this industry," said Carmichael. "Lots of long-serving careers of 20, 30, 40 years maybe, but 63 years is to me a real milestone."

Earning trust

Kowalsky has had a front-seat view of the ways that cars have changed over the past six decades, but said some things stay the same.

"Every person that comes in has got some kind of idea of how to beat the [sales]person. They all come in with the idea that everybody is a crook," he said. "It hasn't changed much."

To win customers' trust and repeat business, Kowalsky said he relies on the Golden Rule: treat others the way you'd like to be treated.

That's something Sarah Werner, general manager of Olympic Honda, said she's learned from her co-worker.

"Gerry's been around for so long because he does have ethics and does have morals," she said.

Plus, she said, he lends the office a certain je ne sais quoi.

"He brings some light and some bright to our dealership on a daily basis," she said.

Kowalsky is pictured with dealership general manager Sarah Werner (left) and dealer principal David Brewis (right). (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

No retirement in sight

When asked about the possibility of retiring, Kowalsky laughed.

"If you're being wanted, if they appreciate it, I appreciate being able to come to work every day," he said.

"I don't want to retire, what would I do? Sit in the mall and shoot the baloney with the old cronies? No thank you."

In another 63 years, Kowalsky said he's not sure if people will still be driving cars. They may be flying.

But one thing, he said, is for sure.

"I'll be watching," he said

Kowalsky says he has no plans to retire. 'I enjoy what I'm doing and they put up with me,' he said. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

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