Richard Kull was a practical man, and he started selling cars for a practical reason.
He needed a car for his family, which would grow to six kids. And he'd heard that car salesmen got to drive demo models around town.
Kull needed a car because in 1955, after he got out of the U.S. Coast Guard working for nine years from Maine to New Jersey, he started a business selling aluminum windows and doors. And that first company taught him a key business lesson - "the difference between cash flow and profit," said his oldest son, Larry Kull.
Richard lost his business, and he lost the new car he bought with the money he thought he was making. By the time he went to turn his wheels back in to the dealer, he'd heard salesmen got to drive the demo cars, so he asked for a job.
He started selling cars, quickly stepped into management and moved around to different dealers until 1967, when he was hired as general manager of Broad Street Pontiac in Newark. His bosses, Bob and Ed Burns, wanted to expand into South Jersey, and Richard went to open Burns Pontiac, which moved to Marlton, Burlington County.
After one of the brothers died, Richard bought in as a partner in 1975. And his second business venture definitely did not fail.
Before he died last month, at 83, the Burns Kull Group grew to include Toyota of Vineland; RK Chevrolet Kia and Subaru of Vineland; Avalon Honda in Middle Township; and Burns Honda and Burns Buick GMC Hyundai, both in Marlton.
Two more generations of Kulls are now in the business. And the family company once included a small dealership in Ocean City, where Richard built a house in 1980 and has made his home since - although he liked Florida in the winter.
But he made himself part of Ocean City in many ways, including as chairman of the board of the Ocean City Tabernacle, where the Richard and Mary Anne Kull Tabernacle Youth Center opened in 2008 and now is used by thousands of children from Ocean City and around the country, said Richard Stanislaw, the Tabernacle's president.
"It was really his dream that we have place for youth," Stanislaw said. "A lot of kids come through every single day, year-round."
Richard and his wife, Mary Anne gave $600,000 to the Tabernacle's $2.8-million youth center, which includes dorms for visiting youth groups. They did that in the form of a challenge grant, Stanislaw said, so that gift turned into $1.2 million when other people met the challenge. They also were major donors to Shore Medical Center in Somers Point.
Stanislaw saw the businessman in action in the Tabernacle project.
"Richard knew how to leverage funds," he said. "He really was a remarkable man."
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