Jerry Ray Davis stands in his car lot Tuesday at Jerry Ray Davis Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram at 322 W 4th St.

Jerry Ray Davis’ road to building a multimillion-dollar car lot at 3900 Frederica St. in Owensboro began more than 30 years ago.

The Madisonville native was just 18 years old when he walked onto a car lot in Lexington one day.

“All the guys were wearing nice suits, nice shoes and nice watches,” he said. “That was around 1986-87. I decided I wanted to do that. I applied for a job there and got it.”

Soon, he was selling cars made by Isuzu Motors America, a Japanese company that would stop selling passenger vehicles in the United States in 2009.

“I sold a lot of them,” Davis said.

Then, in 2007, he met Kym Williams, an Owensboro native.

“We were great friends,” Davis said. “She was living in Louisville, so I moved there.”

He switched to selling Kias in Louisville.

“We got married in ‘09,” Davis said. “In 2014, we moved to Decatur, Alabama,” where he continued to sell cars.

Three years later, they adopted their son, Joseph Thomas.

“We knew we wanted our own dealership,” Davis said. “We looked in North Carolina, Nebraska and Missouri. But this is my wife’s hometown and it’s close to mine. We wanted to raise our son here. So, we made this deal work.”

Last year, they took over Steve Jones’ Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership at Fourth and Frederica streets.

“I don’t know how many smart people buy a car lot in the midst of COVID,” Davis said. “But we’ve been very fortunate. We sold more cars in March than this dealership has sold in 25 years.”

But he wasn’t happy with the location.

Back in the 1930s, when Harry Holder Motor Co. began selling cars there, all the dealerships were downtown and Fourth and Fifth streets, which bracket the dealership, weren’t one-way streets.

Now, Davis said, he has one-way streets on the north and the south of the dealership and it’s hard to get in and out.

So, Envision Construction has begun work on preparing the property at 3900 Frederica St. — part of the old Texas Gas property — for his new 27,300-square-foot dealership.

The initial cost is listed at $3.5 million.

Matt Hayden, who owns the construction company, is a minority partner in the dealership.

Davis said he hopes to be moved into the new location before Christmas.

“The new building is designed for comfort,” he said. “We’ll have free events for the community — concerts and other things — out there. I want to be part of the community.”

Davis said, “Nobody likes buying a car. But I want to make buying a car a WOW moment. It really is about our customers.”

Lifetime warrantyHe said, “If you buy a new or pre-owned car from me, you get a lifetime warranty. I will fix anything that goes wrong. If I take care of my customers, I’ve got them for life. If they buy it from me, I should stand behind it. It’s not always about profit. You have to think long-term”.

Davis said, “If people aren’t satisfied, they need to call me. I can’t fix it if I don’t know about it. My cell number is on my business card. If they have problems, they can call me. People give me grief for doing that, but my customers are respectful. They don’t call at bad times.”

He said, “I’m on the floor every day. My wife and I are just the couple next door. We want our customers to know that.”

The dealership has 42 employees today.

“We want to keep growing,” Davis said.

And that may mean more employees in the future.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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