By Dennis Seid / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Joe Marshall has been in the automotive business since 1989, but he’s never had his own dealership.
That changed last month, when he and business partner Terry Kilpatrick bought the former Frankie Blackmon Hyundai/Mazda dealership.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and then came this opportunity to own this dealership,” Marshall said. “I’ve realized my dream.”
Marshall is co-owner of the renamed Barnes Crossing Hyundai/Mazda and also serves as the dealership’s general manager.
The deal to buy the business, Marshall said, was finalized in early August for an undisclosed amount.
Blackmon, a longtime award-winning automobile dealer, retired in June. He gave his Corinth dealership to his daughter and his Chevrolet dealership in Tupelo to his son.
Marshall said negotiations with Blackmon took about four months, but were worth it.
“Having Hyundai and Mazda is a big drawing card,” he said. “But we have four things to sell: dependability, through the quality of the vehicles; reliability, with the warranties; economy, with the mileage the vehicles get; and styling, with the designs of the cars.”
And it helps to have a red-hot brand like Hyundai, which has been setting sales record in the U.S. in the past year or so.
While most other major automakers have had either small gains or small declines during the economic downturn, the South Korean automaker has enjoyed double-digit growth.
Through July, Hyundai sales had risen nearly 24 percent, outpacing the industry gain of nearly 15 percent.
But Marshall already knows a thing or two about Hyundai and Mazda – as well as several other brands.
Before moving to Tupelo, Marshall was vice president of finance and real estate for the Oxmoor Automotive Group in Louisville, Ky., which sells Ford, Hyundai, Lincoln, Mazda, Scion and Toyota at several dealerships in the Louisville area, plus two other locations in Florida.
“We have to put out the word of what great products we have here in Tupelo,” Marshall said. “I think most people know Mazda, but maybe not Hyundai as well as they should. We plan to change that.”
Tupelo is only a fraction of the size of Louisville, but Marshall said he’s quickly adapting to Northeast Mississippi.
“Since we’ve been down here, we’ve fallen in love with the people,” he said. “We’ve met a lot of great people and we feel very welcome in the community.”
Marshall also noted that being in Tupelo has other advantages.
“I think the eyes of the nation are on Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi,” he said. “I think with Toyota and what it brings, along with the strong manufacturing base and the quality of the leadership in the area, it’s a good place to be.”
In addition to having two popular vehicle lines to sell, Barnes Crossing Hyundai/Mazda also is ideally located, Marshall said.
“The store in Louisville where I worked was across from the mall, and our dealership in Tupelo is across from the mall, which is bigger than the one in Louisville,” he said. “Just take a look around and you can see what’s happening.”
But it takes more than a particular brand or location to sell a product, and Marshall said his message is simple.
“We’re selling value,” he said. “You might be looking at a good price for a used car from another brand, but we might just have something for that price or even better that’s new.”
Marshall also said that customers will be treated like family.
“If you’re going to be part of a community, then you want to treat them the same way you want to be treated,” he said. “That’s what we’ll do here.”