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Q&A with Shannon Harnish-Cook

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Partner of Harnish Auto Family; committed to community

By Marguerite Cleveland | Photo by In-Gear Media


Shannon Harnish-Cook is the president/dealer of Volkswagen of Puyallup, Chevrolet Buick GMC of Puyallup, Chevrolet of Everett, and a partner of Harnish Auto Family. Keith Harnish founded the business in 1977 with a Lincoln Mercury dealership in Puyallup and just a handful of employees. His focus on customer service and “People Matter” built a loyal following and a successful business hiring several hundred people. Seven family members currently work for the company, including Keith and Shannon. Today the company owns dealerships throughout Western Washington. Their customers have become like family, with many generations buying their cars from the Harnish Auto Family.

Harnish has a tradition of community service, and over the years, they have held an eclectic list of events which have raised money and donations for everything from youth sports and classrooms to dog shelters and breast cancer. A recent event held at their Subaru of Puyallup dealership partnered with the National Forest Foundation. In April of this year, 2,500 trees were planted to support the environment. Check the community section on their website to see the latest information on charitable opportunities.

Q. Can you share with our readers how your business philosophy “People Matter” came about and what it means?

A. The philosophy of “People Matter” truly started as an internal message amongst the dealerships through their trusted staff taking great care of their customers. As the Harnish Auto Family continued to grow our brands, we quickly realized that the people within the dealerships are what mattered the most, as well as our customers. From there, this internal message grew outward and has become a core message amongst all the dealerships and has expanded its reach to focus on the people within our communities through local charities and organizations.

Q. When did the Harnish family become involved in philanthropic work in the local community?

A. We have been involved in the community since we started Harnish Auto Family in 1977. Our family has always believed that charity should happen anonymously and quietly but realized that, with the growth of the Harnish Auto Family brand and name, we could leverage our presence to make an impact. Along with this, we’ve maintained a sharp focus on creating an impact within our immediate community using our company’s large advertising budget and media platforms. Rather than donating toward national organizations, we have prioritized local ones, such as Tacoma’s own Carol Millard Breast Center, Lincoln High School, Tacoma Rescue Mission, Step by Step, local food banks, the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation (focused on PTSD), Coffee Oasis, Northwest Furniture Bank, and many more.

Q. What role do your customers play in supporting your charitable events?

A. In addition to direct donations to local charities, we at Harnish Auto Family have leveraged our reach and presence to host fundraising events that our customers and the community can participate in! Many of the events simply require customers to take a test drive to have a donation made on their behalf to the local charity being sponsored. In addition to this, the Harnish Auto Family recognizes that without the amazing support our communities have shown us, we wouldn’t be able to give it back.

One example of this is that during the pandemic shutdown, the Harnish Auto Family bought $30,000 worth of gift cards to locally owned Puyallup and Everett restaurants that were given away with each test drive. The goal of this campaign was to raise awareness for local small businesses that were struggling to make ends meet and help support our community.

Q. Can you share your experience working with the Coffee Oasis & Cocoon House, and how your support made a difference for this nonprofit?

A. Our team at Harnish Auto Family was shocked to realize how many teens are homeless in Pierce County, without access to shelters that accepted minors. We are dedicated to helping this organization fight teen homelessness and stand behind the incredible work their organization is doing.

“[The Harnish Auto Family’s] support made a tremendous impact on local businesses’ ability to keep their doors open. I would also like to recognize Shannon’s current support and involvement in our community’s Puyallup Night Market, which highlights many of our wonderful local vendors—from food to handmade items—bringing vitality to our downtown core.” - Dean Johnson, mayor for the City of Puyallup.

“We have all seen the challenges facing our community. Many struggle day to day, paycheck to paycheck, trying to secure basic necessities. The Coffee Oasis is just one among a long list of community organizations that have benefited from the passion of Harnish Auto Family to care for the community, especially those who are hurting and homeless. The Coffee Oasis exists to restore community through compassionate youth programs, and I think it is accurate to say that Harnish Auto Family exists for the same reason.” - Daniel Frederick, executive director, Coffee Oasis

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