The origin of Cassill Motors actually began in 1963 when two southern Iowa farm kids with strong determination found each other. It was a tough beginning full of challenges but with stringent goal setting and eventually a powerful dream. Those early years included the births of two sons, multiple relocations, and various forms of employment, (sometimes three jobs at the same time). The course had not yet been plotted, but the seeds were planted for what would become, as Paul Harvey would say, "The rest of the story."
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Dwayne Cassill developed an early love and infatuation for automobiles... all automobiles! He loved to drive them, as well as tear into them and repair or improve their performance. In spite of his fascination with vehicles, in the early 70's he opted to work as a General Foreman at Wilson & Company aka "the packing house". In an attempt to balance the necessity of a well paying job with his real desire to work with cars, he performed mechanical duties on the side for friends and co-workers. Soon, the demanding nature of the meat packing business prompted a huge motivation toward a future, more rewarding goal for the young couple.
Dwayne and Janet Cassill applied for and received their first Iowa Dealers License, and the story begins.
The transition that occurred in January of 1973 is likely the most significant cornerstone of today's Cassill Motors. Now living near Shueyville, a spiritual movement, "Key 73" was introduced to the community and shortly thereafter, the Cassills began to host a home Bible Study with no idea how life changing the experience would be. As they continued to learn about living and believing in God's plan for their lives, faith became the pillar of strength upon which they relied. This was the point in time that Janet and Dwayne prayerfully decided to sell the family home and start their own car business in Cedar Rapids. As their prayers continued and the plans progressed, God's work became very clear. This was an enormous test of faith as they realized they had the necessary "know-how", determination, and work ethic, but no money or credit! To make matters worse, interest rates were at an all time high and they were young and unknown in the business arena. But they put their trust in God, acknowledged His guidance and prepared to accept an answer to all those prayers.
The beautiful new lake home was sold and replaced by a $12,000 bungalow on Park Avenue, SE, Cedar Rapids. Originally, there was no garage at this location but there was room for expansion. The first vehicles were sold straight from the street, many times requiring cars to be moved from parking spot to parking spot so as not to exceed the hourly limit. A shop, of course, was targeted for construction but that would cost $10,000 and with no cash, that would have to wait. Lesson learned during this time was... Never try to second guess how God will provide, just be ready to believe it when it happens. To that end, one hot summer afternoon, the wind suddenly began to blow and broke a perfectly healthy looking limb which fell directly on the family car. Of course, the family vehicle was fully insured and the reimbursement was exactly for the amount quoted to build the garage/shop! Dwayne repaired the family car and proceeded toward building that badly needed garage... another prayer answered.
Initially, while all this car business progression set in, there were two small boys to raise. They had a big sand box in the back yard and no one was surprised that they spent hours working and driving matchbox cars through highways and racetracks constructed in the sand. But they loved the new shop as well. Roger at only 7 or 8 years old would openly recite every last detail about any car leaving the garage and was willing to do so to anyone who would listen. I guess you just never know who the next potential customer is. Jay was only 4 years old and was well entertained by replacing spark plugs (strategically loosened by his Dad) and could easily sing any advertising jingle on the radio, even the beer commercials.
Life was busy and tiring. Dwayne worked at repairs and selling... Janet worked at maintaining paperwork and ensuring titles were transferred and accurate, while managing home and raising children. And then in 1976... an unspoken prayer was answered when a beautiful baby girl joined the team! In perfect style for these budding business owners, Stephanie Ray was brought home in a shiny PINK Crown Victoria – stopping at the Courthouse to transfer some titles on the way home from the hospital! Preparing titles must be second nature to Steph – she visited the Courthouse often as a baby and spent hours playing at a toy typewriter, transferring titles. Life was good!
Selling cars in a residential neighborhood from a small garage was not ideal for long. The Cassills began to pray for an alternate location where they could more comfortably sell cars and raise their family. Nothing extreme, but just a better location, more conducive to business with a home nearby and hopefully space to restore some classic vehicles on the side. Like, for instance, a 1953 Corvette acquired in very rough condition for a minimal cost. Money was still not coming easily or affluently when property on West Post Road, SW became available. It was the perfect, 3-acre, commercially zoned opportunity. The house on-site was suitable for the family and there was space to build an adequate shop. Of course, after managing to assemble the $38,000 for the property, there was again a lack of cash to build the workshop. As plans were being made to move, a young man with his own dream appeared. His dream was to own a 1953 Corvette, just like the one on hold in the shop for future restoration! The Cassills happily made his dream come true at the tune of $10,000 which is exactly what the new shop would cost. And yet another prayer answered.
The relocation to West Post Road was great. The boys loved working in the shop and quickly learned mechanics and body work. Soon, they were allowed the opportunity to buy and sell their own vehicle. Roger became an expert on Mustangs and one special Ranchero. A friend gave him a 1970 Ford Ranchero with the disassembled motor pieces in a box. He rebuilt the Ranchero and it was beautiful. The motor was completed about 4:00 one morning, evidenced by the bedroom windows rattling in the house! The roar was loud enough to wake the whole neighborhood but the pride seen on Roger and Jay's faces was priceless.
Of course, this story wouldn't be complete without including the wrecker stage! There were three wreckers and each man of the family thought his was the best. Roger and Jay tried to prove their strength one evening as they went out on the blacktop road behind the dealership and chained their two wreckers together to see who was the strongest. You can check with them to see who won. The wreckers also provided a bit of confirmation that the boys had been listening... one night during a blizzard Dwayne turned down a wrecker job because he didn't want to go out in the snow and cold weather. He promptly received a lecture from his firstborn that, "Don't complain about not having any money if you aren't willing to work!" Next call they went out despite being tired and cold. At the end of this phase, however, Jay was the winner for the most beautiful wrecker ever known! No doubt he produced more return on his investment, just going to school on winter mornings, than most of us see in a lifetime!
Perhaps the only downfall with this property was the existence of a Triple X Theater next door. One evening, the business was seen moving out of the building. Delmar Day, long time family friend and realtor, was immediately contacted and an offer prepared. Five additional acres was gained...enough room to expand and accommodate a growing business. Of course, once again, funding was short and required parting with a 1954 Ford Glass top, a 1956 Ford, and 1958/1959 Ford Retractables.
Operations at Cassill Motors were hectic and stressful. A reputation of being fair and honest had been earned and enabled the company to finance their customers. Sometime around 1983, the first computer was purchased, creating a temporary nightmare! So many other accomplishments occurred through the years.
One feature that separated Cassill Motors from other small dealers was the 30 day warranty. Every vehicle was sold with such a warranty that covered motor, transmission and drive train. This type of guarantee was rare but it was the Cassill Motor belief that if you checked the automobile carefully and completed repairs in advance, the customer would not have problems with the vehicle.
Cassill Motors continued to grow. Mechanics and salesmen were hired, new buildings added and in 1990, the family home relocated and the previous house was removed from the property.
In 1996, Janet and Dwayne were instrumental in starting the Iowa Independent Auto Dealers Association. Many hours were spent conducting membership drives, organizing meetings and serving on the National Auto Dealers Board of Directors. This association was significant in Cassill Motors staying in tune with changes and updates to the auto business overall.
Once again, a less than desirable business was located directly across from our car lot on 16th Ave and West Post Road. In 1998, Cassill Motors purchased that property and embarked on another expansion project. The family made the decision to purchase the property with Roger and Jay designing the infrastructure. They purchased the salvage of First Trust and Savings Bank on First Avenue and after work each day, worked into the wee hours of the morning tearing out all the items needed for our new building.
The original Cassill Motors owners, Dwayne and Janet, retired in 2002 and Roger assumed official ownership. Cassill Motors continued to grow and develop into a familiar name in Cedar Rapids. Extension lots were opened in an effort to accommodate our growing customer base.
2011 introduced Jay Cassill's first appearance as an Expert in WMT Radio's Expert Hour program. His audience loves him and his show has since expanded to a weekly Saturday morning program where Jay answers car questions. "My Car Geek" radio also paved the way for Cassill Motors "Car Care Awareness Classes". These services set Cassill Motors apart among the competition, as well as in the community.
The year 2013 marks another significant move for Cassill Motors. After re purposing the former Advance Auto Parts Building, the Cassill's joined the sales and service departments under one roof. The expansion to a new building allowed the Cassills to come together to bring the best quality product and service to their customers, whom we refer to as our friends. As before, our attention to quality and reputation of integrity has allowed us to extend our warranty beyond our competitors. The Cassill Lifetime Engine Warranty was introduced in 2013.
As you undoubtedly noted throughout this summary, God remains the real proprietor of this dealership. It is a business created, built, and maintained through faith and belief in God and what great things are possible through His love plus a lot of hard work and determination.
Roger is officially at the helm but is always aware that without his partners, his unwavering vision for Cassill Motors could not continue. Jay has stood beside his brother from the beginning and continues to support Cassill Motors from the depths of his soul. It was a welcome move when Stephanie returned to Cassill Motors and has added her own special zest for life and service. Colleen, Shelly and Chad offer their dedication and support to this business as well. This could not be done without our dedicated employees making the team complete. As the family grew, success and pride grew as well. The greatest of all accomplishments is that the Cassill Family has learned to stand up to adversity, to work together, to laugh together and to care about one another. They truly represent the epitome of America's family business concept.