By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Pulling one over on one of the biggest jokesters in town is no easy feat.
That being said, John Tackaberry of Star West Chevrolet-Honda was “Punk’d,” as he likes to say, at the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce’s “How the West Was One” celebration recently at the Delano American Legion.
Joe Tipka, the store manager of Coborn’s and a chamber board member, along with the chamber’s president Amy Stewart and executive director Jean Kopp, came up with the idea to make it appear as if Coborn’s was receiving the business of the year award, when in reality, the winner was Star West.
“I was given the opportunity to pull one over on one of the biggest practical jokers in town,” Tipka said. “When this opportunity came to me, I couldn’t resist giving it back to John.”
When it came time for Stewart to announce the business of the year at the chamber’s “How the West Was One” banquet in February, Tipka was called forward by Stewart, took the plaque, and started talking about how shocked he was Coborn’s received the award.
After a few remarks, Tipka called Tackaberry up front, and acknowledged him for the work he’s done and the influence he’s had on Tipka. Tipka then told Tackaberry that Star West actually received the business of the year award, and then Tipka handed Tackaberry the plaque.
“I thought, ‘I don’t want his plaque,’” Tackaberry said with a laugh.
It finally hit Tackaberry that the award was his and that he had been set up.
However, in true Tackaberry fashion, when he heard Tipka and Coborn’s were going to be named business of the year as the celebration was beginning, he attempted to find some bottles of Cub Foods water to give him as a joke.
“I’m happy that he received it,” Tipka said after the celebration. “The proactiveness that he brought to this community by starting up the Highway 12 task force I’m very appreciative of that and also the support he’s shown the chamber and community.”
Kopp said for her, the highlight of the banquet, which Star West took most responsibility for planning, was keeping the business of the year winner a secret from Tackaberry.
“I was glad to see the joke on Tack and the Star West crew for a change,” Kopp said. “John welcomes every business, customer, and citizen into Delano. He may come off as gruff and a high-profile practical joker to a number of people, but his heart is in the right place when it comes to Delano, its businesses, and citizens.”
The first impression Tipka had of Tackaberry was one of being proactive and getting things done.
“We were at one of the first task force meetings, and John was talking about how we need to get proactive about this road construction, continue to get people in town and support us so we do not lose any business. He pointed his finger to me saying, “and Coborn’s is going to be affected by this, so you better get on the bandwagon.’
“If anything else, it was a wake-up call, saying you need to get more active in the community and show support to surrounding businesses to continue to support Delano and make us thrive,” Tipka said.
“The reason I appreciate John is because of the compassion he actually shows to this community and how he really gets the ball rolling on all the different projects we come up with. We come up with the ideas and John is right behind pushing, saying ‘let’s get ‘er done.’”
Tackaberry grew up in St. Paul and established Star West in Delano in 1980. Thinking back to that time period, he said it was tough then, but it is tougher now.
“Was it tough in ‘80? Yes. Interest was up to 23 percent,” Tackaberry said. “It was nothing to what it is today. I thought it was difficult then, but there are more challenges today.”
Like it was then, and remains today, Tackaberry said it’s all about remaining positive and moving forward.
“Staying in the game and trying to make something happen,” he said. “You have to be completely proactive.
The proactive and “dive in and get things done” nature has seen Tackaberry and his Star West emerge as leaders in the recent construction activities that have happened in Delano, along with promoting as a whole “Delano: Open for Business.”
“Star West Chevrolet Honda has been at the forefront of leading Delano businesses through the Hwy 12 bridge construction of 2008, and into phase two of 2009,” Kopp said. “Star West has made significant financial contributions, as well as staff hours to promoting Delano: Open for Business.”
Tackaberry said he simply saw the construction heading toward Delano with plans to shut down Highway 12 through town, and thought that something more needed to be done.
“I saw the thing coming at us, and thought, ‘we gotta grab the bull by the horn,’” Tackaberry recalled. “I was very outspoken in getting a special entity (the task force) to do this. Wendy (Gilmer from State Bank of Delano) jumped on board and that’s how the task force evolved.”
Not only has Star West been the driving force behind many of the activities of the Highway 12 Task Force, Tackaberry has also been requested to speak to other neighboring communities about the successes and future plans of the task force.
“Being a member of several other chambers of commerce and civic groups, Star West has offered to assist area communities that are worried about similar Highway 12 construction and detours in their communities,” Kopp said. “After attending meetings with John Tackaberry in other communities, I see that before any of Delano’s construction started, we were headed down the right path.”
No one knows better than Tackaberry that heading down the right path means getting people involved.
“It’s about people and it’s about community,” Tackaberry stressed. “You do everything you can to help people. The construction was nothing compared to what it is today. The world changed as we know it in October.”
Star West consists of Chevrolet cars, trucks, and SUVs, along with all Honda Sports and power products. Along with these services, Star West offers Red Wing shoes and a line of Carhartt clothing, among a number of other services.
You won’t see Tackaberry’s name as part of the name of his dealership, like you will with many other similar businesses.
“We’ve got a good team of people,” Tackaberry said. “They’re proactive, willing to do things, and get involved. Star West is a reflection of all its employees.”
The name Star West, itself, actually comes from when Tackaberry was living in Dallas and he saw people’s names on dealerships. When he came back to Minnesota, he knew he wanted something different.
“I wanted something simple and positive that denoted we were just west of the metro part of the metro,” Tackaberry explained, adding the “Star” goes back to being positive.
“There is nothing negative to the word star,” Tackaberry figured. A friend of his in Dallas was a police artist, and Tackaberry commissioned her to come up with a logo for Star West. Since that time, Star West has been a leading fixture on the Delano business community and the driving force behind many things.
“If you don’t take charge, you’re never going to get anything done,” Tackaberry said.