Jacqueline Stewart Lechler’s office is a treasure trove filled with pictures of her loved ones. Family is of utmost importance to her, and she considers them her blessings.
As a director of Stewart’s Auto Sales Limited, she grew up in the male-dominated car dealership industry, and now, along with her mother Diana, is at the helm of the company. “I would have been exposed to this business from I knew myself,” she shares.
Asked if she saw a different trajectory for her life, without hesitation she answers, “I was always attached to my parents. I was their handbag. I don’t think it was ever a question [of doing something else].”
Working with family can have its highs and lows. “It’s a journey. There’s good and there’s bad, but the beauty of a family business is, you are exposed to all aspects, and you are never put into a box.” Every day in the office allows for learning a different skill. One day you’re an accountant; the next, a bearer; and another, a salesperson. “Family business is a special and unique tool, even though there can be lots of tension [and] emotion. You’re mixing different personalities. There are hierarchies. So it’s a journey,” she adds.
On the day of our interview, Stewart Lechler’s daughters, Christina and Amanda, both of whom are employed at Stewart’s, are working from a section of her office. As they listen keenly, we question the raspy-voiced director on her hopes for her children. With a glance in their direction, she says, “My hopes for them are that they are on a journey that they want to be on. That we are not pigeonholing them. That they too will find love and satisfaction [with work].”
Stewart Lechler used to race cars, but once she had kids, she gave it up. Married for 34 years to James ‘Fuzz’ Lechler, she is candid that marriage has been good, but also not easy. “I have four beautiful children. My husband stood by me for many of life’s tragedies,” she says. “Life is not all peaches and roses, but would I change it? No.”
Grandma is not the moniker she goes by; instead, she is affectionately known as ‘Meme.’ She looks over at her daughters again and says, “I love being a Meme, sometimes I think that they [her grandchildren] are my kids.” Christina and Amanda agree.
Stewart Lechler tells Flair that she recently watched both of them on their pregnancy journey — Christina with her third child, Isla, and Amanda with her first child, Emily. She reminisces on how they’d make jokes and talk about morning sickness and birth plans, before letting us know that work life can interfere and she doesn’t get to see her grandchildren as much as she would like to.
All work and no play would make Stewart Lechler a dull girl. And dull is off-brand for her. While knowing how to get business done, she also likes to have fun. “I can’t wait for carnival,” she says. In addition to swimming, fishing, and dancing, she is also big on public service. While philanthropy is important to her, she is happy that her children, niece, and nephew are also passionate about giving back.
Through the Richard and Diana Stewart Foundation, she tells us, “We have it up our sleeve that we want to build a 20-bed hospital ward with Food For The Poor in Portland sometime this year.”
We can’t help but notice the grand picture of her late father, Richard, that encompasses the wall behind her. “He’s always there,” she said.
On the relationship with her mother, Diana, who is nearing 80, she says, “She is my mentor. She’s one of my best friends.” As tears begin to create a well in her eyes and her voice begins to crack, she adds, “She’s why I am who I am.”
Moving on to what’s next for Stewart’s, she says, “We’re now expanding our product line.” Think Chinese passenger cars and electric vehicles. “So in the next two years, Stewart’s journey will expand and change.”
But what’s next for Stewart Lechler? “I’d like to spend the next 10 years laser-focused on strengthening our family and our company, so that when I take a step back I can be proud that they, too, are going to do for Jamaica and be for Jamaica, awesome children of the soil.”