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Spirit of Acadiana: The Lasting Legacy of Adrian Vega

Spirit of Acadiana - Adrian Vega.jpg
Posted at 7:55 PM, Feb 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-05 22:07:02-05

LAFAYETTE, La. — Acadiana Dodge is celebrating a milestone on Friday as 30 years ago, the late Adrian Vega purchased the dealership and built it into what it is today.

“So, Adrian Vega—my father--came to America when he was only 12-years old, and his family was actually the first Cuban refugee family in Acadiana,” says Christa Billeaud. Those are words she utters on the day of fabulous anniversary for Acadiana Dodge in Lafayette.

Specifically, it’s been 30 years for Acadiana Dodge. 30 years since a Cuban immigrant who started off as a porter, made the company his own. And even now, Adrian Vega’s legacy is ever-present.

“As I understand it,” says Billeaud, his daughter and now co-owner of Acadiana Dodge, “he and his siblings left on a plane, they paid someone everything they had to get them over here. They only brought an extra pair of shoes. They could not bring any of their belongings to they just came, literally, on wings and a prayer.”

Adrian Vega and his family first landed in Florida, made their way to Acadiana and at the age of 18, Vega started as a porter at what was then called Dependable Dodge, delivering cars. That first job---set all kinds of things in motion. “He was delivering cars, and that’s how he actually met my mom. He delivered a car to my grandmother’s house, and my grandmother thought he was so enchanting, and said, ‘You have to meet this guy’.”

The love story between Adrian and Rita Vega began—and so did his career. Chysler had a minority program; Vega bought a dealership in Lake Charles; and then in 1991, he bought Dependable Dodge, moved back to Lafayette and created…

Wait for it…. Acadiana Dodge.

“He knew all of us, he knew what was going on in our personal lives, as well as where we were in our professional lives. He gave a lot of encouragement,” says Office Manager Roberta Leblanc, who’s been with Acadiana Dodge for 26 years. “He also knew how badly I wanted to finish my college education, and he made sure I had the funds to do so.”

Vega’s origins did not go unnoticed by his employees, particularly by Indonesian immigrant Yan Djiogio, a company technician. “He was a great man, he was a good man. I’m an immigrant, he’s an immigrant. He always came down and shook everybody’s hands. That’s what I vividly remember.”

He was always there, says Detail Manager Eddie Pete, who’s been with the company for 28 years. “You could always count on him; he always knew if you had a problem. And he would take steps to ease that problem. It’s kept me here and I’ll stay here til I’m done.”

The dealership has grown. Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Mazda all under one roof, so speak, yet all under the guiding principles of Adrian Vega. His son-in-law, Chip Billeaud, is the president of the group and recalls

a basic lesson imparted by Vega. “Basically, that every single employee is important, and that every single customer is important too. You don’t have a business without employees and customers.”

He put on a tough front, but in reality Adrian Vega cared. A lot About his family, his company, his community; he gave so much to so many nonprofit organizations, schools and individuals. And 30 years later--we’re all the better because of the man he was.

“I think his tough image came from years of fighting,” explains his daughter. “I think he remembered being hungry, I think he remembered having to overcome so much adversity. But his heart stayed soft on the inside.”

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