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A Legacy of Service

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Riley Ford

By Rachel Dutil Photos by Jessica McCafferty

When Ronald and Janet Roberts purchased the Riley Ford dealership on Route 9 in Chazy in 1980, they likely never imagined that 40 years later their daughters and granddaughters would be running the business. Although much has changed in four decades, the tradition of customer service, honesty and integrity that Roberts initiated has remained at the core of the business.

Riley Ford has been in operation in Chazy since 1926. Ronald Roberts was employed there when one of the owners became ill and offered him the opportunity to buy the business.

Roberts’ daughters Joy Vanleuvan and Jane Dubrey have been working at the dealership since the 1980s. Dubrey started part-time in 1983 and has been working full-time since graduating from high school the following year. Vanleuvan joined the business in 1986 after college. Both women performed a multitude of jobs around the dealership from washing cars to sales to paperwork. Vanleuvan took on the role of Dealer/Principal in 2012 after her father’s death. Dubrey is now the office manager.

Vanleuvan’s two daughters – Jenna Seguin and Jessica Hanson – have also joined the business. Seguin is the Service Manager and General Manager. Hanson is the Business Manager. All four women honor Ronald Roberts’ legacy through their continued commitment to Riley Ford customers and the community.

Women-Owned Business

In 2019, Riley Ford earned a certification from New York State as a Women-Owned Business Enterprise, making it the first and still the only dealership in the state with that designation. The process was arduous, but the delineation is one that Vanleuvan is enormously proud of.

Working with family is both rewarding and challenging, Vanleuvan admits. In addition to her sister and her daughters, Vanleuvan’s cousin Anthony Roberts is the General Sales Manager and Anthony’s son, Ryan, is part of the sales team. Anthony’s father Gerald Roberts worked at Riley Ford for 27 years before his death in 2007.

Riley Ford

Although there are challenges, the biggest advantage is that everyone is striving for success. “Everybody wants to be successful; everybody wants to do well. It’s not just us, it’s the people who work with us,” Vanleuvan said. “We truly consider all our Riley Ford co-workers as our family. It’s 100% a team effort.”

Riley Ford currently has 36 employees, several of whom have been with the dealership for more than 20 years. Seguin started filing invoices at the dealership while still in high school in 2004. “I was working before I was driving,” she recalled. The shop manager would pick her up from school so she could work after her classes were over. Now she works alongside that same shop manager in the service department.

When Seguin first joined the staff, her grandfather wasn’t fond of the idea. It is not an area where women are traditionally found and, at the time, it was a bit rough cut. Seguin was up for the challenge and eager to prove wrong anyone who thought a woman couldn’t work in service. “If I can be knowledgeable and confident and know what I’m talking about and show people that, I love it,” Seguin said. She has also taken the reigns and implemented processes and procedures in the department that have increased efficiency.

Riley Ford

Hanson took a little longer to come around to the idea of working in the family business. “I always loved the social and atmospheric part of it, but for me the work part came later,” she said. She worked at the dealership after completing her undergraduate degree and while working on her Master’s degree at SUNY Plattsburgh. It was then that she really found her place. She started in the manager role in 2015 and learned the compliance aspect of the business, how to work with lending institutions and how to advocate for customers.

“For me the hardest part was learning from my family,” Hanson said. “It was hard to get used to my mom being my boss and keeping work at work and it not reflecting on me personally. That separation was the hardest.” But because she works with family, there is a lot of support and trust. “They aren’t just my coworkers, it’s my mom, my aunt, my sister.”

“We have a greater appreciation and a greater understanding of each other,” Seguin said of working with family. “Working in a dealership setting is very high paced and stressful. We all have a desire to keep it here.”

“Making Customers for Life”

Ronald Roberts set the tone regarding customer service right from the start and his daughters, granddaughters and the rest of the Riley Ford team place a heavy emphasis on working with customers through any issues that arise. Dubrey and Vanleuvan fondly recalled that even customers who walked into the dealership unhappy, would almost always leave smiling after talking with their father. “He never got upset with customers, just asked them ‘What’s the matter, what can I do?’,” Dubrey remembered.

“Making customers for life” is the Riley Ford slogan. Customers are warmly welcomed upon entering the dealership and are treated like part of the family. “A customer recently shared that they bought their first car from my grandfather at Riley Ford in the early 1980s,” Hanson said. “I love that. Now they’re dealing with me, my sister, my mom, and my Aunt Jane.”

A wall in Riley Ford’s showroom displays 31 Ford Motor Company President’s Awards for customer service. Vanleuvan explained proudly that those represent responses from customers that rate Riley Ford’s customer service as excellent. Those speak volumes about the team.

“Everybody’s position is defined, but not limited to that,” Seguin said of the staff. “If you believe in the product and service that you’re providing, it makes it easier to do something that is a little bit outside your defined job description,” Hanson added. Some customers even question whether all the staff are related because they all work so well together.

Community Service

Ronald and Janet Roberts raised their family in Mooers, New York and were involved in the Knights of Columbus there. Dubrey and Vanleuvan both recalled doing a lot of volunteer work with their parents and learned the value of community service. “He was one of the most generous people you could ever meet,” Hanson said of her grandfather. “There weren’t many people he wouldn’t help if they came knocking on his door, and they did.”

That commitment to serving the community has become part of the business. Riley Ford participates in local parades in Mooers, Champlain, Rouses Point, and Chazy; sponsors youth programs; sponsors racers at Airborne Speedway; hosts annual blood drives; and other local events and charities. “Our view is that we are putting that money out there,” Seguin said. “We’re in a position to help people, help groups, help children, and put back into the community because they’re the reason we’re here.”

Staff at Riley Ford can participate in Casual for a Cause, where each employee can choose to pay $5 to dress down on Fridays and money raised supports causes like helping a child pay for an out-of-town competitive event or to help buy turkeys for the JCEO. “We are fortunate to be in a position as a business and as a community to be able to do that,” Hanson said. “We try to help out as much as we can,”

Vanleuvan concluded.

Riley Ford 9693 Route 9 Chazy, NY 12923 518 685-6114

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