Nothing defines American ingenuity and power quite like the automobile industry and nothing defines local commitment and friendliness quite like Dwain and Carolyn Bruner, who celebrated their 50th consecutive year selling Chevrolet vehicles Monday.
General Motors recognized the milestone of one of its longest standing partners during a 50th anniversary reception held at Bruner Chevrolet's Stephenville dealership, and the Bruners unveiled a new company name and logo tying all their dealerships together under one local brand - Bruner Auto Family.
Friends and colleagues sat beneath the canopies at the Bruner lot beside Chevrolets from the last 50 years to celebrate with the man affectionately known as "Mr. B."
"I think your presence today and love for the Bruner family speaks to the way they have run their business," Dr. Ben Macklin, the Bruners' pastor at the First Baptist Church told the audience before speaking directly to Dwain Bruner. "Regardless how many years you've been here or how many cars and trucks you sold and whatever other milestones you earn, the way you have conducted business in Stephenville is to be commended above all else."
The Bruner family business was established as a full-service gas station in Kerens by Charlie Bruner and his son Vernon in the early 1920s, resulting in the establishment of the first Bruner Chevrolet in 1928. Vernon's son, Dwain, joined the family business in 1955 after graduating from Baylor University and serving three years of active duty in the United States Navy.
In 1962, he moved to Wolfe City and opened Dwain Bruner Chevrolet. In 1969, General Motors asked the Bruners to take over its Stephenville dealership and Dwain and Carolyn moved to the city later that year.
The family tradition now spans four generations of Bruners with Dwain's son, Greg, serving as general manager.
The Bruner Auto Family has expanded to also offer Chrysler and Toyota vehicles and has continued growing since Dwain Bruner moved to Stephenville and later opened dealerships in Glen Rose and Brownwood.
A 50th anniversary celebration will also be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the family's Brownwood dealership, located at 300 E. Commerce Street.
While the Bruners have built the enterprise on a solid foundation, the road to success hasn't always been an easy drive.
"It's been a great ride," Dwain Bruner said. "We enjoy doing what we do every day or we wouldn't be here, but there have been those days over the last three to four years we didn't know what was coming next."
Over the last several months, the Bruners have worked to retain the company's corporate identity while capitalizing on the family approach to business, an effort seen in their new logo.
"You will see this family Bruner 'B' and the new Bruner logo on all our brands, and you will see us talk more intentionally about family in our advertisements," Greg Bruner said. "Every time you see it you will know you are the most important part of our family."
The Bruners give generously to many local causes as well as Dwain Bruner's alma mater, Baylor University, and Tarleton State University.
"There are pillars in this community and to have pillars like the Bruners that make an extraordinary difference in the quality of life of this community is incredible," added Tarleton President Dominic Dottavio. "There are very few people that you can say unequivocally represent the great fundamental values we all cherish - integrity, honesty, civility and respect."
Stephenville Mayor Kenny Weldon proclaimed Monday Dwain and Carolyn Bruner Day while General Motors presented a special award commemorating the occasion.
"You have heard today a lot of words about integrity, hard work and being a pillar of the community," GM's Chevrolet division manager Tim Hughes said. "Those are things we look for in a strong dealer partner, which we have proudly had with Dwain for 50 years."
Dwain Bruner knew for months the milestone was approaching but hadn't quite understood the significance of his relationship with the 101-year-old company until recently.
"I want to thank you very much from the heart. I've finally realized I've been here half the time Chevrolet has been in business, and if you count my dad we've been here 85 percent of their time," Dwain Bruner said. "It's finally soaking in and it's been a great, great ride."