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Sampson Corvettes

Many years ago I worked in my family’s sporting goods business. We had a sign above the front door that stated: “Fun Is Our Business”. After visiting Sampson Corvettes, in Sanborn, IA, I believe I found another family owned business where the same motto must hold true. As a Chevy guy I have to wonder, “Could there be a better niche in the car business than specializing in America’s sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette?”

Sampson Corvettes is a small, family owned automotive dealership specializing in, of course, Corvettes. Their beautiful 5000 square foot showroom is located on busy Highway 18, right on the edge of Sanborn. Sanborn is in a great market area; near the Okoboji “Iowa Great Lakes”, and a pleasant hour and 15 minute drive from Sioux Falls.

Craig Sampson and his wife, Sharon, started selling used cars in 1997. They had a family farm hog operation prior to that. The car business developed when they started letting friends park cars and equipment for sale along the highway during the Clay County Fair, (Which, I learned, is the largest county fair in the country). Finding that selling was good, the used car business evolved. They began specializing in Corvettes in 2005. Craig is a long-time Chevy guy, having grown up with Chevelles and Novas, and even racing a 1968 Z-28 Camaro back in the 1970’s. The transition to Corvettes was a natural move. The staff at Sampson Corvettes includes Craig and Sharon as owners/sales, their daughter, Laura, in marketing, and son, Nicholas, in sales and detailing.

At the time of my stop, there were 16 Corvettes on display; enough to make any Corvette lovers’ heart beat faster. The inventory normally runs from about this number up to around 22. Red and Black were the dominant colors this day; the two most popular colors among Sampson’s customers. Years ranged from a 1985 C4 up to a beautiful black 2014 Z51. Many model years in between were represented, with the bulk of the ‘Vettes being 2000 and newer. Craig says that the 2010-13 C6 Grand Sport is their most popular seller right now.
The dealership has recently begun adding a few classic cars to the inventory; when I was there, a sharp black 1969 Camaro SS was on the showroom floor amongst the mix of Corvettes. Other “non-Corvette” vehicles that may occasionally be for sale are trade-ins toward the purchase of a Corvette. Corvette trade-ins commonly come from owners that have had their Corvette a few years and are ready to move into a newer generation car. As a testament to the dealership, many of these are repeat Sampson customers. Laura notes that most of the Corvettes are very low mileage, especially in this area where they aren’t driven year-round. “Corvette owners take really good care of their cars; it’s their baby!"

Laura finds that Corvette buyers are very discerning customers. “People are pretty picky when it comes to buying a Corvette. Customers know about the Corvette; they know what they want, and they are ready to buy when they contact us.” If they don’t have what the buyer is looking for, Sampsons will do their best to locate the specific model, color, and features desired.

As trade-ins don’t always keep up with inventory demands, Craig does buy some Corvettes through online dealer auctions. I learned that at the major online auctions, cars are graded from 1-5, with 5 being the best. Grading is certified, and a bidder can buy with confidence knowing that the car will be as represented. Craig has never been burned on a vehicle when buying through this system.

The bulk of Sampson’s sales are to customers in the tri-state area plus Nebraska, and Missouri. They also sell at Barrett-Jackson Auctions each year. This year they took eight Corvettes to B-J, and they had an impressive sale of three 1978 Indy 500 Pace Cars. Craig bought each car from a different source, and mileage was four miles, eight miles, and 17 miles. None of the cars had been dealer prepped or had the Pace Car Decals installed. These three went across the block as the highest prices paid for that model ever…very impressive! Craig notes that the 78 Pace Car models have doubled in price in the last three years; not a bad investment on these models.

Sampson Corvettes is a major
sponsor of “Vettes in the Park” in  Okoboji each summer and they attend “Hot Summer Nites” in Sioux Falls in July. You can find them online at,,, Twitter, and Facebook. Dealership hours are Monday through Friday 9AM-5PM, Saturday 9AM-Noon, and other times by appointment.

I visited with Laura at length about Sampson’s dealership philosophy. She tells me that they like keeping the business on a smaller scale, this results in a more personalized experience for the customer. Their customers get to deal with the company owners instead of an anonymous salesman in a large company. The business is a hobby that the family enjoys doing together and, perhaps most importantly, they love selling the Corvettes that they love to people that love Corvettes. What a great business to be in! TMM


by: Tom Olsen


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