A well oiled machine
Vice President Chris Stromer (left) and his dad President Harold Stromer (right) stand behind the counter of the parts department inside Boco’s, which is celebrating 85 years. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
By: TONY MARKS
A business in Ville Platte specializing in small engine sales and service has propelled its way over the years and has been passed down through the generations.
“You get to be with your family everyday,” said Vice President of Boco’s Chris Stromer.
He remembers being there from a young age with his dad and grandfather and has watched it grow over the years. “I’ve always been here,” he said. “Back then it was one building. They’d drive the cars in, and they’d work on the cars. And they had mowing machines.”
“Then in 1973 once we had Honda for a while, dad built a separate shop in the back,” he added. We got out of the car business, and it was mowing machines, chain saws, and motorcycles. Then three-wheelers and four-wheelers came in; then it got bigger and bigger.”
Chris began working there in 1976 after he received his degree from LSU. He said he met a lot of people over the years and saw a lot of changes.
“For example when we first started with Honda, to look up a part, everything was in a book, and you’d order through the mail,” he said. “Stuff took two weeks to get here. Then we went to Microfilm, and they’d get all scratched up. Now we have computers. If we didn’t have computers, we couldn’t find parts because there’s so many different models now.”
“I was over 40-years-old when I had to start with computers,” he added. “It wasn’t easy, and it’s still not easy.”
The technology may have changed over the years, but some things that have not changed are the commitment to service and the importance of family.
“We’re always here for the people,” Chris said. “I’m here all the time, and that was the example I had. There was no leaving for two weeks to go on vacation and stuff like that. It’s got its sacrifices, but how many people get to work with their dad for 41 years? I’ve done it.”
Chris took the business lessons he learned from his dad and grandfather and applied them to the way he raised his own children. He said, “I’ve learned to set goals and to work toward them, and you have to be honest with people.”
“When you sell something, you have to stand behind it,” he added. “It’s easy to sell stuff and to have parts and service. If you just sell, you’re no different than Wal-Mart or K-Mart or one of these other places.”
This dedication to its business and to its customers that was passed down through the generations has led Boco’s to be recognized for 50-years of service with Honda.
“It’s special in that you don’t have too many dealers in the United States that had stayed with Honda for 50-years,” said Chris’ father Harold. The elder Stromer also serves as president.
Harold explained the origin of the name of the business. “‘Boco’ was a nickname for a barrel of sugar,” he said. “My father and mother were from sugar cane country. A barrel of sugar is short and stocky and was called a ‘boco’ in French terminology. My father maintained the name until the day that he died. In fact the name is on his grave stone.”
“When I was born, Edgar Buller came to see me, and he gave me the nickname ‘Bozo,’” he continued. “That’s how I started with ‘Bozo,’ and it stayed that way.”
Harold’s parents moved to Ville Platte from Broussard about 100-years ago. “My dad (Harold) worked for my uncle who had opened up a Model-T Ford agency here,” he said. “When the Depression came, the agency folded. My dad had to have something to make a living, so he opened a general automotive repair shop on Main Street. He stayed there from 1932 to 1956.”
“I was in high school back then and went to college,” he continued. “I ended up going to ROTC, and fortunately for me the Korean War ended while I was in college. I still had to complete my ROTC requirements, so I graduated college and got my commission from the Air Force. I stayed in the Air Force for three years, and then when my three years were up I came back home. I started working on June 22, 1957. I got out of the service on the 21st and drove back here.”
Ten years later Boco’s began selling Hondas. As Harold explained, “I had seen what Honda could do while I was in the service. Everybody had a Honda motorcycle to go to and from the base. I lived about five miles from the base, so I’d drive a Honda to and from my residence. I knew what Honda could do.”
“We’re just thankful for the people and the support that we got because it helped us a lot,” Chris said. “We educated all our kids and provided a good living for them, and we’re still going.”