For some six decades, multiple generations of the Mrak family have cemented a reputation for quality customer service as well as dedicating time and resources to the community that helped them get their start in Ottawa so many years ago.
Louis Mrak opened Mark Motors in 1959 after immigrating to Canada from Austria following the Second World War. Little did he know that his small Montreal Road garage would eventually turn into six luxury brand destinations across the city, selling brands such as Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Maserati, Land Rover and Alfa Romeo.
“He really cared about business in general, about satisfying clients and keeping them happy so they would come back again,” says Michael Mrak, principal dealer. “Back then you didn’t have the internet or advertising as we have it now. It was basically all word of mouth, and that’s how he grew his business.”
The last 12 months have been busy for the Mark Motors Group, which is now run by Mrak siblings Liza, Michael, Andreas and Vincent. A newly relocated Audi West Ottawa dealership, the opening of the new Jaguar Landrover Hunt Club location and a celebration of the company’s 61st year in business all represent milestones for the family and symbols of the success they have built in the community.
Growing up around their father’s business demonstrated that “hard work pays off” and taught the family about the importance of philanthropy, says Liza Mrak, executive vice-president of the company. Hearing stories of her parents’ struggle to make a life for themselves as well as the people who helped them along the way inspired the siblings to pass on that generosity to others in Ottawa.
“We grew up in a space where our parents came from nothing, and so they had to rely on the community,” says Liza. “There were certain stepping stones which helped them, so we have become leaders in the philanthropy area because of that.”
Their father started giving back to the National Arts Centre Foundation to help fund programming more than 20 years ago, a tradition the family has continued. Most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Liza was invited to serve on the board of the National Arts Centre Foundation. The Mark Motors Group supports the community where they can including the Royal Ottawa Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, the Heart Institute and others. Additionally, Liza is the co-chair of the Run for Women, an annual race to support women’s mental health initiatives.
Giving back and supporting one another is also an important lesson the Mrak siblings hope to share with their 250 employees. Open and honest discussions about mental health in the workplace occur at all the Mark Motors dealerships and is something the company plans to continue building upon as it grows.
“We want to make sure that we’re supporting our employees, so that when they are here, they know that they’re being supported by the family, by their managers and their teams,” Liza adds.
As the family navigates through the new landscape given COVID, they remain positive and look forward to the prospects of new vehicle technologies in the pipeline and continuing to grow the Mark Motors name in both automotive and charitable circles.
“We love to participate not only financially but by getting involved with specific events,” says Michael. “And if this is a small part we can play to help better the community, then that’s what we’ll do.”