Jim Corazza has spent his life in the automotive sales business.

Corazza is dealer operator of Fairway Motors, Inc., located at 1101 North Church Street (Route 309) in Hazleton. The business is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a Chevrolet dealership this year.

The business is situated on a total land area of 81,000 square feet, including its sales and service departments, body shop, and a Subaru dealership, which was acquired 26 years ago.

It is also a UD Trucks dealer and has been recognized in the industry as the leading Chevrolet truck dealer east of the Mississippi.

Fairway is a family-owned car dealer, and Corazza has seen all the highs and lows of the auto industry.

"I love the business, and I love cars," said Corazza. "Every day is different. There is always something new happening. When you think you've seen it all, come to work the next day, and you'll see something new."

The ownership of the Corazza family has sustained it through good and lean times.

"I've seen a lot of dealers come and go," said Corazza. "You plan for the worst and hope for the best. I never thought I'd see the day General Motors would go bankrupt. I've been around GM all my life, and it was out of our control. It was a scary time, but we cut expenses and resized ourselves for the current market.

"We've been through tough times before. This wasn't as tough as it was in the 1980's, when interest rates were at 18 percent. To me, personally, that was harder to deal with."

Fairway Motors began on South Street in Freeland as a Chevrolet dealership in April, 1960. Albert Corazza, Jim's father, was a partner in a Freeland dairy with his brother when the Chevy dealer was for sale.

"He thought he'd get into a business with less manual labor, and he took the plunge," recalled Jim.

Albert started out with four employees, including himself. In 1965, he bought out Iffert Chevrolet in Hazleton, which was located where Fairway now stands. "At that time, the Churchhill Mall was a junkyard," remembered Jim.

Albert Corazza passed away in 1974, and his wife Laura took over the operation of the dealership. Jim had been working in the sales and used car departments and became the general manager. "I had been doing a bit of everything and worked in every department," noted Jim.

In 1995, Laura Corazza became president of the corporation, and Jim assumed his current position as dealer operator after going through GM's rigorous certification process. "GM is very selective about who is representing their produect," said Jim.

A third generation is also in the business, as Jim's son Al Corazza is the sales manager of Fairway's Subaru franchise, which was obtained in 1984. The Subaru dealership had been on 28th Street next to McDonald's; Fairway relocated it in a new building next to its main facility in 1997.

"There is very seldom a time, virtually never, that one of us is not on the property," stated Jim.

That stability extends to the staff as well. "Many of our employees have been here since the 1960's," said Jim. "Our service manager, Al Contini, has been here since 1965."

Fairway Motors employs 55 people and is now looking to hire more after cutting back last year during the peak of the recession.

"We are back in a growth mode," stressed Jim. "The business is definitely starting to turn the corner."

While the GM end of the business was struggling, the bright spot was Subaru, which bucked the industry trends and posted a 15 percent increase in sales in 2009, according to Jim.

"That kept us on an even keel," he commented. "We came out of this thing stronger than ever, and we learned how to operate more efficiently."

The dealership's total sales volume averages 1,300 between new and used vehicles, said Corazza.

Fairway Motors is one of the original GM Business Central Dealers. Appointed as such in 1996, it is the only one in northeastern Pennsylvania, noted Jim. "That means we have a dedicated team to work with companies and their fleets," stated Jim.

Fairway's fleet operation is one of the top in the country, he explained, averaging between 3,000 and 4,000 vehicles per year.

Then there's the Nissan Diesel UD (Ultimate Dependability) Truck franchise, which it obtained in 2002, for those looking for cabs over trucks.

One of the biggest changes in the industry over the years has been the impact of the Internet.

"People thought with the Internet, they wouldn't need a dealer, they would just click and buy and have it delivered to their home," said Jim. "We took a wait and see attitude regarding the Internet, and it's now a tool instead of a hindrance.

"People used to come in and get a piece of literature or a price, but now they go on the Internet for their basic information, and their first contact is when they email us. Your floor traffic now comes through the Internet."

Through the years, Corazza said the philosophy of his dealership has remained the same.

"Customer satisfaction is our number one goal," he said. "Whether it's sales, service or the body shop, we want them to have a satisfactory experience. We want to take care of the customers we have.

"We've sold to fathers, grandfather and grandchildren. They know we're going to be here," he added.

Fairway Motors can be contacted by calling (570) 455-7701 or check www.fairwaymotors.com on the web.