A Family Man With a Plan
How Sam Galloway Jr. found success with a little help from his loved ones
One beaming light bulb. That’s all Sam Galloway Jr. used to see between Fort Myers and Estero on the highway ride to his grandparent’s house in Miami.
Back in the 1950s and ’60s, Fort Myers encompassed little more than woods, dirt roads and rainbows of gladiolus leading to Fort Myers Beach. There was, however, one attraction steadily in place: Lee Motors of Fort Myers downtown.
Galloway’s father, Sam Galloway Sr., had acquired the dealership from his wife's mother, Theresa Shackelford, who established it as Tropical Motors in 1927 before becoming Lee Motors in 1930. Galloway says his grandparents often told tales of how notables like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and others would visit the store.
“There’s a picture of Harvey Firestone cranking the original 1906 Ford that I have,” Galloway says. “It’s really kind of an interesting story this business has had.”'
The business is something Galloway always longed to be a part of. Immediately following his graduation from Fort Myers High School in 1963, he began working at the family-owned automobile agency, scrubbing floors and maintaining vehicles until purchased his family's company in 1970. At 26 years old, Galloway was the youngest known Ford dealer in the nation, which came with its drawbacks.
The company (renamed Sam Galloway Ford) had recently moved to Colonial Boulevard, and Galloway needed to keep up with its financial growth while learning how to become a respected business leader. Here, he began to morph into the committed professional many recognize him as today.
“I think when other people see you working as hard as they work or harder, they appreciate that and you gain respect from that,” Galloway says.
His diligence paid off. By 1980, the dealership was thriving and Galloway, discontent with resting on his laurels, sought greater challenges. He purchased a small Dodge store in Fort Myers and acquired a number of franchises thereafter. The Ford dealership became one of the largest in Florida, and Galloway welcomed growth by moving the main operation to its present 37-acre location on Summerlin Road and Boy Scout Drive.
With four leading dealerships under the Galloway Automotive brand, Galloway is happy letting his children— Katherine, Robert and Sam III—succeed him as fourth-generation managers. “I’m somewhat active, but not like I was,” he says. “The business is theirs.”
Now, Galloway’s main role is father, grandfather and husband to his wife of 50 years, Kathy. He also continues to dedicate time to many charitable causes, including the annual Soup Kitchen benefit he founded and puts on with fellow Community Cooperative Ministries Inc. members.
“Over the last 10 years, [Galloway] has been totally committed to making sure he can do whatever possible to assist in feeding the hungry,” says Joseph R. Catti, FineMark National Bank & Trust president and CEO and Community Cooperative member.
To Galloway, that means more than donating funds. “You can write a check and walk out the door, but you want to get involved,” he says. “God has been good to me, and I want to be good to other people. I feel like it’s my duty.”
In addition to filling tummies for a day, volunteers also help teach people sustainable tactics, like how to navigate government assistance programs, and the organization partners with pet food companies to feed animals, too.
Galloway has proved to be a man less interested in temporary fixes and more into honoring legacies, especially with his involvement in the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. He created the Edison-Ford Winter Estates Foundation, which was responsible for the property’s total reconstruction. He also separated the homes from the city so they could operate under their own budget and management.
To Galloway, the Edison home is an integral part of Fort Myers and an attraction not to be compromised. “That’s the man of the millennium … to have his home here, how valuable to us is that?” he says.
Galloway has always believed in the greats—people like Edison, Ford, and his grandparents for starting Galloway Automotive. And while the determination of his predecessors initially motivated him, it’s his family who keeps him going today.
“I wouldn’t be standing here without them,” he says. “Over the course of my business career and my life, I’ve learned the most important things are No. 1 your family; No. 2 has to be the people that touch your life, and I’ve been pretty doggone lucky with both,” he says, pausing.
“Well, I don’t believe in luck. I think you make your own. But I’ve been very fortunate in those two things.”