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Monday, Feb. 10, 2020

Driven to Success

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George Fritze puts family, community and employees front and center

George Fritze believes in family. It’s the foundation of his business at Red River Chevrolet, and he is the fourth generation of his family to operate the dealership. The fifth-generation, represented by his son and son-in-law, is already in place.

Fritze is the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leader of the Year. The recognition, he said, was a total surprise.

“I had no idea it was coming,” he said. “It was a very nice surprise. I don’t know what I did to deserve it. It is a very nice honor.”

Dr. Timothy Magner, president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber, called the recognition a testament to Fritze’s rich history of success and community service.

“The Chamber is delighted to honor George Fritze as our 2019 Business Leader of the Year,” Magner said.

“While George is a dedicated and successful entrepreneur, maintaining and growing his family’s business, it is his success combined with his tireless civic and philanthropic engagement that cements his legacy as a true leader in our community.”

Fritze said he feels fortunate to have taken the reins of the business his greatgrandfather bought in 1926. Fritze’s grandfather took over in 1931, and his father and uncle took over in the late 1950s. Fritze’s father became the sole owner in 1960. George came on board in 1970.

The business has operated continuously in its location on Traffic Street near the Red River and Interstate 20.

“We’ve grown a bit through the years,” he said. “But I am blessed to have an ongoing business that has been successful for five generations now.”

In addition to success, Fritze also believes in an ongoing commitment to the community. The non-profit organizations and activities he supports include the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, the Boy Scouts, Holiday in Dixie, United Way, the Bossier Arts Council and the LSU Shreveport Foundation, among many others.

“George Fritze is such a phenomenal person because of his love for life, his love for family,” Larry Clark, chancellor at LSUS, said in a tribute video produced by the Chamber. “He’s a sharp business guy. He was an Eagle Scout.”

“It’s important to participate and give back to the community,” Fritze said. “I’ve been fortunate to participate in a number of non-profits, as well as forprofits, around town, trying to improve the lifestyle of people in the Shreveport- Bossier area.”

His commitment to the community has grown from his deep roots here. He was born and raised here, and at age 14 started working at Red River Chevrolet for his father in the parts and service department. He went to LSU initially to pursue a medical degree before he changed his major to business administration. His time at LSU and one summer he spent working on a Florida golf course are the only times he’s been away from the Shreveport-Bossier community.

“He’s involved in a lot of things he doesn’t have to be involved in,” Mike Woods of Woods Operating said in the Chamber’s tribute video. “He makes his living here in the community, and he believes in giving back to the community.”

He has received a number of local, regional and national awards through the years. In 2009, he was named Time Magazine’s NADA Dealer of the Year. That was the same year he was inducted into the Junior Achievement Northwest Louisiana Business Hall of Fame.

“Annually, since 2012, George has supported the youth in our area by participating in JA Inspire: Student & Mentor Lunch,” said Nita Cook, president and executive director of Junior Achievement of North Louisiana. “This workreadiness initiative brings together 350-plus students from 12 high schools and our community’s top business leaders to help students with learning the soft skills to get and keep a job. He serves as a Junior Achievement Laureate, encouraging his family as well as other leaders to engage in our community.”

But there is a different hall of fame of which he is equally proud. On a showroom wall hangs more than 50 photos of inductees into the Red River Hall of Fame.

“Those pictures are all employees who worked here 20 or more years,” he said. “Six of them 50 or more years. Anybody with a green star is still working here at the dealership. We’ve had not only customers who had multiple generations, but we’ve had employees with multiple generations.

“We’re blessed to continue to do business with people who have found this is a good place to come and trust and send their offspring and friends and family to come do business with us. It is a family business.”

One member of that family is George’s son, Patton Fritze. He is the general manager for fixed operations.

“(He) is my role model,” Patton said in the Chamber’s tribute video to his father. “That’s what I aspire to be. Everything I am today, I want to try to be like my dad.”

Fritze acknowledged that it can be difficult to stand out in the crowded field of auto sales. “Every dealer has the brand they are representing,” he said. “And they are local in their markets and invested in their hometowns.” Service, he said, is what sets Red River Chevrolet apart from the competition.

“General Motors has a training program for their technicians,” he said. “If you can pass all of the training and tests in a particular field, you can achieve GM Master Technician, brakes, steering, electrical or whatever. We have more Master Technicians than anybody else around. Back in the ’90s, they came out with a World Class Master Technician – you didn’t have just one, you had them all. We have five World Class Master Technicians. There are 11 total in the state of Louisiana.”

What is the key to George Frtize’s success? Patton Fritze has some insight.

“I really think it starts with his demeanor,” Patton said. “How he interacts with people, whether it be with customers or friends. He’s always a positive, upbeat guy. Very courteous and professional, and I think that speaks to his character in general.”

Frtize explained the philosophy that drives success at Red River Chevrolet.

“We try to do business not for today, but for the long term,” he said. “To treat our customers as guests and hope they will come back for years and years to come.”

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