Jim Skarlis is experiencing success today because he has always been a man of determination, drive and modesty. From every experience Jim encounters, he takes away something valuable. Born to Greek immigrants, Jim’s parents were businesspeople themselves, running a local grocery store in Mason City. Jim first helped at the store when he was 13, shortly after his father passed away, and from there his involvement in business has only grown stronger. In 1966, during the biggest draft call ever, Jim joined the United States Army. He would soon find out that the discipline of the army and the experience he gained working part-time in the siding business would help define his role in the business world.
1968 proved to be a year of changes and new beginnings for Jim – he finished his army duty; he was in pursuit of starting a siding business; he married his high school sweetheart, Sandra, and they moved to Waterloo. Family is very important to Jim and Sandra. They consider having their daughters, Lisa and Laura, their husbands and five grandchildren living in Waterloo a true blessing. Family has also played a large role in Jim’s business career.
Though most of us know Jim Skarlis as the automobile dealer, he is and has been involved in a number of other industries. Jim’s career took off in 1968 when he started Community Builders, a siding business. One year later, his brother George joined him as a partner. It wasn’t until 1977 Jim had his first taste of the automobile industry. Though he knew he was passionate about this industry, he expanded his siding interests in 1979 when he and George partnered to start Community Wholesale, a siding and window distributorship. Nine years later, George became the sole owner of Community Builders and Jim took sole ownership of Community Wholesale. Jim also purchased a siding and window distributor in Des Moines this same year. At last, Jim had the opportunity to expand his automobile passion in 1989 when he purchased Dick Witham Chevrolet. In 1990, he also purchased Mark Gill Buick and merged the Buick and Chevrolet dealerships into one location; thus Community Motors is born. This 26-year old company has since expanded to incorporate many auto manufacturers, four locations and over 375 employees. In 1994 Jim continued his entrepreneurship ways and partnered with another businessperson to create Heartland Window Manufacturing Company in Aplington. When Jim started out, he wasn’t expecting his businesses to grow and expand as they have, but he has met every opportunity and challenge presented to him with vision and passionate commitment.
Though Jim’s business interests keep him busy, he and Sandra are the first to give back to the community. Their generosity comes from their time, money and care for the Cedar Valley. Their involvement with Allen College of Nursing, Grout Museum, Allen Birthing Center, Cedar Valley Hospice, YMCA, Junior Achievement, among others, has most likely touch each of us in some way. For the things Jim Skarlis has done for business and community, his story of being a self-made success can be an inspiration to us all.