For the last four months, Roger Rivard has come to work with all the necessary tools to operate his James-Rivard Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealership, including a duffle bag with workout clothes and athletic shoes.
Okay, the duffle bag isn't needed to sell cars, but it does come in handy when he goes from the dealership to the Academy of the Holy Names to hit grounders and pop-ups.
Yes, Rivard moonlights as the Academy's softball coach.
On top of all that, Rivard and his wife, Kimberly, are event chairs of the May 3 Champions For a Cure gala for the southeast Hillsborough unit of the American Cancer Society.
Who said men can't multitask?
Over lunch at Macaroni Grill, I talked to Rivard about his busy schedule and his charitable efforts. Pull up a chair and join us.
ERNEST: How do you balance running the dealership and coaching softball?
ROGER: It starts like the 10th of January and it'll be over in April. In light of the current economic situation, it's taken a ton of time. Many, many days, I bring that duffle bag, change clothes, go to practice, come back, shower and work until 8 or 9 o'clock at night. I'm not a golfer, but I enjoy it like guys enjoy golf. I have a little competitive streak in me, yet I've always been fair. We have a good time.
Did you play recreational softball?
Not a whole lot. My daughter Emily, when she was younger, was very much involved. I think that's how I got hooked on fast-pitch softball.
What's more difficult to deal with, a dissatisfied customer at James-Rivard or a dissatisfied softball parent at the Academy?
You're going to think I'm jerking you a little bit, but the truth is I've never had a difficult conversation with a parent at the Academy of the Holy Names. First of all, the kids who go to school there aren't there because I'm the softball coach. They're there because of the quality of education. And I'm fair. I want to win but never at all costs. I've won a lot of games 7-4 that I could have won 13-0 but I chose to make substitutions and let kids play. I think the parents see that and appreciate it.
How much have you enjoyed the auto business?
The car business is very challenging at the moment. It's been good to me so far, but right now it's not so hot. It's not just our brand, it's just the state of affairs in the industry. But, sure, I like coming to work every day. Most people can't say that. I'm lucky enough to be in a profession I like.
What motivated you to step up for the American Cancer Society when you already had so much on your plate?
Some people have a passion because they have some immediate family member [who is] greatly impacted. I can't say that. I volunteered to be on the board about a year and a half ago, and if you're going to volunteer on the board, you got to do something and not just be a figurehead. I just don't show up. If it's worth doing it, you do it to the best of your ability.
What should people expect?
A lot of fun and not a lot of time taken up with auctions. We have a couple of live auctions, but you're not going to have to sit there for an hour. We're going to have 15 minutes of live auctions. It's going to be a little bit more casual. We did a little bit of an informal survey and people get tired of the traditional "got to put a suit on to go to a fundraiser." So we grabbed the sports team theme and said, "Let's let people wear a collared shirt with their team logo."
DESSERT: A postscript from Ernest
This charitable effort is nothing new for the Rivards.
Roger has long been involved in the community as a Rotary member. The annual donation of a car at the Nativity Catholic Church's Novemberfest has become a staple. Kimberly has worked closely with the cancer society for several years.
Rivard, who has been in the auto business since 1984, got into the industry as a certified public accountant. The firm he worked for in his native Michigan had a number of auto industry clients.
Rivard rose through the ranks due to his familiarity with cars as an auto parts worker during high school and college. He eventually caught on with a dealer and came to Brandon to assume management of what was then a new dealership in 1992. He has been the sole owner since 1997.
Rivard's daughter Emily went on to Davidson College in North Carolina.
She starts medical school at the University of Florida in the fall. He also has a son at Auburn University and a younger son who attends Jesuit High.
Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa & State section. He can be reached at email@example.com or 226-3406.