Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth West is the most recent West to take on the family tradition of working as a teen at West Chevrolet.
Daughter of Charles and Mary Beth West, Elizabeth got her first job this summer as a file clerk for the auto business at 3450 Alcoa Highway.
Charles West, who took over the family dealership in 2004, said the custom dates back to Clyde Eckles West’s founding of West Chevrolet in 1931.
“Elizabeth is the fifth generation,” Charles West told The Daily Times on Wednesday. “We typically all started doing summer work out here in our early teens.”
“I started as a 14-year-old in 1961 washing cars and stayed there a long time,” said Steve West, Charles’ father and former owner of West Chevrolet, adding that it was clear even then that he wanted to stay in the car business.
“Blount County has been a great place to do business.”
Charles West agreed that he also knew he wanted to stay in the business at the young age of 14.
“I certainly had fun working here,” he said. “Even at that time, I thought it was what I wanted to do.”
Although Elizabeth, a freshman at Maryville Junior High, where she serves as editor and chief of the school’s yearbook, welcomed the new opportunity of working alongside her dad, she said she’s still considering additional career options, including journalism.
“I’m still thinking about what I want to do, but journalism does seem like a fun idea,” she said.
“I really like writing.”
Familiar and flexible
One of the best aspects of being a part of the family endeavor, Charles West said, is the familiarity that comes with it.
“Growing up in the business, I’ve been around people that have worked here for many, many decades,” he said, noting that some employees have lasted through all five generations of the Wests.
“Being at work is almost like being at home.”
He stressed that hectic schedules of sports, camps and other activities present challenges for younger people trying to get summer jobs, but a family business allows for much more flexibility.
Elizabeth, who generally worked between 20 and 30 hours each week, “took to it pretty well,” he said.
“She still had a busy summer with camps and had to learn to balance her work schedule,” he explained.
“She had some very tiring days where she had no trouble going to bed at night.”
Elizabeth, a Van Metre dancer, said the most tiring time was when she attended dance camp before work in the evening.
“I was exhausted working then ... there was always something new being stacked on my desk,” she said. “I usually spent most of the days I wasn’t at work at home.”
For Elizabeth, the hardest part of the job was actually working with adults.
“I kind of felt out of place, but it was nice to experience,” she said.
“I really liked being able to say I had a job at such a young age, and I really liked working with my dad.”
In fact, Elizabeth has already been in contact with the office manager at West Chevrolet about coming back during future school breaks.
“I do want to come back — maybe during fall break or spring break,” she said.
“I really do like working here and do want to do it again.”