Sponsor Spotlight: Lee Johnson Auto Family, owned and operated since 1933
It’s hard not to sing-along with Lee Johnson Auto Family’s jingle. “The LJ Way” sticks to the brain like “Sweet Caroline,” in a short and sweet upbeat tune you just can’t stop singing. But, what does “The LJ Way” really mean?
To Tod Johnson, president of LJ Auto Family, “The LJ Way” is a community-focused mindset that places people above bottom lines. It’s a legacy. Established when the business opened in 1933, it’s been passed down through three generations.
Born during the height of the Depression, this small business grew on the solid legs of a trustworthy reputation for good service, great values and a friendly atmosphere.
In an industry often characterized for pushing sales to make a quick buck, “The LJ Way” turns this stereotype on its head. Why? Because “The LJ Way” is rooted in family.
Their employees, like their customers, have been with them for generations. “We have a number of people who have been with us for 20-plus years. In fact, one of our parts department employees recently retired. He’d been with us 47 years,” Tod said.
The sense of family is woven into the very network of the dealership. Tod explained:
When our customers come here, they’re going to see the same faces not just day-in and day-out or month-in and month-out, but year-in and year-out. That’s important to us. There’s a lot of trust there. We know their cars. We know their tastes. And, in the event that something does go wrong, we’re their advocate with the manufacturer.
While Lee Johnson Auto Family doesn’t support any one charity in particular, they put a huge focus on giving back to the Kirkland community, particularly the local youth.
Kirkland’s Little League is perhaps the group they’ve supported the longest. In 1951, Tod’s grandfather, LeRoy Johnson, spearheaded a group of Kirkland businessmen to bring Little League to Kirkland. It was the first Little League in Western Washington.
Tod’s father, Lee Johnson, Jr., continued in LeRoy’s footsteps, staying closely involved with Kirkland’s Little League. He didn’t just play in the league. When he proposed to his wife Ginny, it was on the wooden bleachers at Peter Kirk Park. From the sidelines of Kirkland’s Little League fields he cheered for his kids. And, when donations were needed, he helped. Lee’s support and involvement did not go unnoticed.
When he passed away in 2002, community members rallied to have the field at Kirkland’s Peter Kirk Park named in his honor. Today, the field is known as Lee Johnson Field. “We were just blown away that the community would think of Dad like that,” Tod said.
Now in the third generation of Johnson management, Tod and his brother Brett are the proud poppas of the fourth generation. Between the two men, they have five little girls, each of whom shares the middle name Lee. Will they follow in their father’s dealership footsteps? That’s yet to be determined. The oldest is just 11-years-old. But one thing’s for certain, they’re already learning the importance of “The LJ Way.” Tod and Brett demonstrate it year-in and year-out.
“It’s not about the bottom line this month or this year. We’ve been in business for 81 years now. It’s about being in business for another 81. The key to that is to keep treating people the right way.”
Lee Johnson Auto Family
11845 NE 85th ST
Kirkland WA 98033