Bobby Gilbert; Service, service, service

HOUSTON – Bobby Gilbert has always felt serving customers after the sale is the most important part of selling cars.
Gilbert will retire from Griffin Motors on Friday after 34 years with the Houston dealership and half a century in the automobile business.
“I started out in the parts house and then went into servicing cars,” said Gilbert. “I moved over into sales and was always glad I started in the service department. Helping people after the sale has helped me sell more cars than most people know.”
Gilbert started his career in Houston in the parts department of the Patch Chevrolet almost 50 years ago. A move to Tupelo saw him work at George Ruff Buick and Searcy Ford. Gilbert came back to Houston to sell cars at Wimberly Ford that later turned into McKinney Ford.
Gilbert’s career in the car business was interrupted with a four-year stint with U.S. Plastics in Houston.
But the natural born salesman was soon back selling automobiles at Sonny Long Ford in Okolona. And when Raymond Griffin opened his dealership in 1978, he gave Gilbert a call.
“I had opened my dealership in April and I called him in November,” said Griffin. “He is one of the most honest employees I have ever had.
“He is a man of integrity and treats his customers well,” Griffin added. “He will help his customers – or anybody – any way he can.”
Customer Wayne Dempsey said he has bought over 17 cars for himself, his wife and children from Gilbert.
“I call him on the phone and tell him what I need and he always finds what I want,” said Dempsey. “It was always more than just to the price to me and Bobby always took care of me.”
Gilbert said the world and cars have changed a lot in 34 years.
“The price is the biggest change,” said Gilbert. “A mid-range vehicle cost about $4,200 in 1978. They average about $36,000 today.”
He talked about all the advances and new gadgets that are on today’s cars.
“I love to see the new models come out and see what all they have on them,” said Gilbert. “Today’s cars do so much more and are so advanced. The days of the shade-tree mechanic are gone.”
But Gilbert said sales is still about two people sitting down, agreeing on a deal and sealing it with a handshake.
“My customers are my friends and the people I go to church with and see at the store,” said Gilbert. “I would never want to do anything to hurt that relationship.”
A member of Parkway Baptist Church, Gilbert said he would also never want to hurt his witness or tarnish the name of his church family.
Gilbert said he has always enjoyed sales.
“You have to believe in what you sell,” said Gilbert. “I’ve been fortunate to sell a lot of used cars and trucks, too. You have to know those vehicles just as well as you know a new vehicle.”
Gilbert said he knows he will miss his co-workers at Griffin Motors.
“They are like brothers and sisters to me,” said Gilbert. “They have been with me through thick and thin.”
Gilbert said he will also miss his customers.
“My customers have been a big part of my life for years,” said Gilbert. “I will still keep in touch.”
Gilbert said his health is stable and he decided to retire and spend more time with his wife who is battling cancer.
“We are going to get out of town for a few days and we aren’t telling people where we are going,” said Gilbert. “I also have children and grandchildren in the area and we will spend more time with them.
Gilbert said he will plant a garden in the spring and hopes to devote more time to church work.
“My Lord Jesus has always been my example and my strength,” said Gilbert. “My church, my co-workers and my customers have always been a blessing to me. I’m looking forward to serving my Lord and church in retirement.”
A reception for Gilbert was held at Griffin Motors on North Jackson Street on Friday and the community, friends and customers were urged to attend the day-long event, enjoy refreshments and a handshake and smile from Gilbert.