J.C. Lewis Ford is proud to be Georgia's oldest, continually owned and operated automobile dealership.
J.C. Lewis Sr., who worked for the Packard dealer, T.A. Bryson , was approached by his golf buddy, Jimmy Weeks about buying his Ford dealership located at 309 Bull St across from the old Desoto Hotel. In spite of many doubters who wondered if Ford would really make it, Mr. Lewis wanted to buy it, but couldn't afford it, so Mr. Weeks graciously agreed to finance the $500 transaction.
J.C. Lewis Sr. relocated the dealership to the corner of Oglethorpe and Barnard Streets, where the SCAD dorm, Oglethorpe House currently stands. The old service department building faces Orleans Square and the JC Lewis Motor Co sign can still be seen on it today.
The company took applications for an office boy. A 15 year old boy named Sam Steinberg applied for the job. Sam went on to become a valued and trusted employee and when Mr. Lewis died in 1942, his son JC Lewis, Jr. was only 17 years old and was still in school. Sam, not only ran the dealership until J.C. Lewis Jr. finished school, but stayed on as his right hand man and trusted advisor right up until his death at age 95. Sam Steinberg worked at J.C. Lewis Ford for 80 years and was undoubtedly true to his word, a permanent fixture here that shaped the company over his many years of service.
J.C. Lewis Jr. inherits the dealership and begins to learn the business via a pay-phone from Woodberry Forest School in Virginia
At age 23, J.C. Lewis Jr opened a separate Ford truck and Ford tractor sales location at a Bay St Extension location
He expanded the business by opening a second Tractor location in Springfield, acquired two taxi cab companies and an Avis Rent-a Car franchise, added the Lincoln, Mercury, and Edsel franchises, expanded into Florida with two additional Ford locations and even became the distributor of two German makes, Lloyd and Goliath. Lloyd and Goliath didn't make it and he got stuck with unsold inventory. Always looking to make a deal, Mr. Lewis traded all of them for a 72' converted Russian PT boat named the Mistress. He thought he could sell the Mistress easier than he could sell the cars. He did.
Mr. Lewis relocated the dealership to a new, growing, south-side section of Savannah, 5505 Abercorn St, just south of Derenne Ave. In an effort to continue serving his downtown customers, he also opened up a new, separate dealership, Curtis Ford at 500 Montgomery St.
Mr. Lewis purchased the farm and sold the first parcel to Dan Vaden with the understanding, if he built his Chevy dealership there, Mr. Lewis would build next to him. Other dealerships followed by moving to Abercorn and they attracted other retail establishments. Mr. Lewis' vision of an Automobile Dealer Row kick started the Southside's growth and today, 40 years later, is still the highest trafficked area in Savannah's automobile business.
As Mr. Lewis continued to build the business, one of his six children, Walter N. Lewis joined the business full-time after college.
J.C. Lewis JR. and son Walter Lewis receiving 75 year plaque from Ford Representative Pete Accorti.
Walter will tell you that he was extremely fortunate to be able to work with his father almost every day until his death in 2005. Walter is the third generation principal at the dealership, and feels honored, privileged and blessed to have followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. The same virtues and beliefs that allowed the business to succeed at the beginning of the 20th century are still in place today.
J.C. Lewis Ford celebrates 100 years in business with a visit from Ford family members and executives. Pictured are Ford executives Jim Farley (far left), Edsel Ford II (far right) and Walter N. Lewis and Nancy Nelson Lewis of J.C. Lewis Ford.
Walter N. Lewis is honored by the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association as a 2015 'Time Dealer of the Year' Nominee.