William “Billy” Schafer Jr. grew up in his family’s car business and stayed with it because of the people he met.
“I want to serve our clients. We want to put people in the right car, and we want to serve their needs. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. I’m honored to serve them,” said Schafer, the chief executive officer of Master Buick GMC, who was recently honored for 25 years of service to GMC.
The Schafer family has spent more than 75 years in the car business in Augusta.
Schafer’s father, Willy, and uncle, Walter Schlapp, married sisters and emigrated from Germany to Augusta in the 1920s. They started working at Augusta Ice and Coal, and in 1934, they opened a garage on 10th Street. In 1937, they opened the Pontiac Master car dealership, which later moved to 10th and Telfair Streets.
William Schafer, a 1961 graduate of Richmond Academy, attended The Citadel and served in the Army before coming to work for his dad and uncle.
“I got out of the Army in October 1967, and Daddy died in April 1968,” said Schafer, who had to grow up quickly to learn the business. In 1973, he took over for his uncle, who continued to work at the dealership until his death in 1985.
His son, Will, and daughter, Kathy Hensley, are now the third generation in the family business.
For Will, there was no doubt he’d follow in his father’s footsteps. He’s been with the business for more than 20 years and is thankful to have had his father’s tutelage.
“I grew up in the family business and knew early on that it was the direction I wanted to take for my life,” he said. “I’ve had the privilege of working next to my father daily and the benefit of his wisdom; something my father, himself, didn’t have after losing his dad as soon as he came into the business in 1968.”
Will said his father’s experience has been invaluable as he’s learned how to run the dealership.
The Washington Road dealership lost its flagship, Pontiac, after more than 70 years when the brand was phased out in 2010.
The family still believes in the future of the business. About two years ago, they opened a second dealership in Aiken, Master Chevrolet Cadillac on Richland Avenue.