High Point Enterprise Citizens of the Year Ann and Vann York
They met in the cafeteria line at a Methodist retreat. He had just graduated college and asked if she was a senior. She answered, “yes.”
He assumed they were talking about college. But she meant high school.
Eventually they married and began a partnership that led to a family, a successful business and a legacy of service to their community.
Ann and Vann York were voted this year’s High Point Enterprise Citizens of The Year by a board of past recipients. The Yorks will learn about winning this award when they read today’s newspaper. Or when their phone starts ringing this morning — whichever comes first.
Many who know the Yorks say their contributions to the High Point community are too many to list. But some of those efforts include volunteering for and supporting: Open Door Ministries, YWCA, YMCA, Hospice of the Piedmont, The United Way of Greater High Point, High Point Regional Health System, High Point University, Macedonia Family Resource Center, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. They’ve given away a car from their dealership each year to the United Way of Greater High Point, which gives it to a local donor. Their idea has caught on in other North Carolina communities.
Those who know Ann and Vann York say they are a team whose different personalities complement one another. Vann is the visionary, the big-picture guy with enormous drive. Ann is the pragmatic, pensive one who can read people and figure out what is important to them.
Their son, Greg York, said when he was growing up, whenever one of the children was struggling with something, Vann would pump his fist in the air and yell, “You need PMA!” (Positive Mental Attitude.)
Ann would make sure their homework got done.
‘They believe that you give a portion of what you have away’
The Yorks began serving the community early in their marriage.
Ann York helped with the church, her work going beyond tithing. Vann York also started with the church.
When asked about the Yorks, many said their contributions are done quietly. They are humble, unassuming.
But people have been watching. Including their children.
In the early 1960s, before they owned a successful car dealership, Vann read a story in the newspaper about children in western North Carolina who didn’t have shoes.
He went to his Sunday school class and said, “We can do something about this.”
His children remember him coming home one day and opening the trunk of his Chevy to show them a mound of children’s shoes.
“These shoes are for children without any. Think about that. There are children in our state who don’t have any shoes,” he told them.
“That stuck with me my whole life,” said the Yorks’ daughter, Lynn York.
‘When you do something like that, it’s good for those children, but it was also good for his children. They believe that you give a portion of what you have away.”
The Yorks’ three children have carried on that service of self in their own communities in High Point, Chapel Hill and Cincinnati. From supporting the arts, to hospitals, to the United Way and Scout troops, The Yorks’ children continue serving their communities.
Vann York began his career at GMAC. In 1968 he joined Ann’s father at a small Chevrolet dealership in Pilot Mountain. In 1970 he and Ann bought a Pontiac dealership in High Point. That dealership became the cornerstone of Vann York Auto Group. Today Vann York Auto Group operates four dealerships representing 10 manufacturers
In the early years of running their car dealership, Vann ran the sales and service departments while Ann managed administration and accounting. As the business grew, Vann ran the day-to-day operations while Ann handled human resources, facilities and projects. They made major decisions together.
Now, Greg York is the president and chief operating officer of Vann York Auto Group. Vann is chairman of the group, and Ann is vice president.
Their ideals of open doors, promoting from within and a family-like atmosphere has generated loyalty.
Several of their employees have been with them for more than 20 years.
“I’ve been there 28 years, but it feels like 28 days,” said Doug Gillespie, a sales associate at Vann York Auto Mall. “Their doors are open. It’s a great environment. ... They’re very big on community and family.”
Many people say when Ann and Vann York learn about this award, they will be thrilled but humbled. What they do for the community, they do quietly.
Charlie Greene , Citizen of the Year in 1990, said, “They are major partners of High Point’s economic and philanthropic engine, pulling us forward, quietly — like a good car’s engine — efficiently but always low key. So low key, that this award should have been awarded them years ago, but it seems that we only think of the Yorks when help is needed — not when giving awards. Now that is low key.”
Reach Editor Megan Ward at 888-3543