BIRMINGHAM — Oct. 17, 2017 — The 1916 Chevrolet Model 490 normally on display in the showroom of the downtown Birmingham Edwards Chevrolet Co. Inc. was among 35 Chevrolet models displayed last year for the dealership’s 100th anniversary.
Employees, former employees, customers, vendors and community supporters of Edwards Chevrolet could walk through the years with the business by seeing the cars that spanned from 1916 to 2016.
To accommodate the cars and the crowd, the August 2016 celebration was held at Regions Field.
“They could go from this vehicle, to the 20s and 30s, … the 50s just to see … how things have changed,” said Lee Edwards, the current president of the third-generation dealership, which maintains its flagship store at 1400 3rd Ave. N. A second location on U.S. 280 East opened in 2007.
The Alabama Retail Association honored the dealership today as an Alabama Centennial Retailer, a retailer with 100 or more years in business in Alabama. The Birmingham Business Alliance nominated Edwards Chevrolet for the award. At the 2017 Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham, the business received a bronze plaque for display outside and a certificate for inside.
“For a business to survive the dramatic changes of the past century is a remarkable achievement,” said ARA President Rick Brown. “It is fitting to celebrate the enduring first-century contributions Edwards Chevrolet has made to the Birmingham metropolitan area and beyond.”
After four years selling Fords and with a savings of $6,000, William Sterling Edwards Jr. opened the Chevrolet dealership on Aug. 5, 1916, on Birmingham’s bustling 21st Street. He ran the business for 65 years, through World War I, the Great Depression and WWII. His son, Leon Edwards, began working for this father in the 1940s in the summers and after college came on full time. He took over the business in 1962, growing it and even spawning new dealerships by supporting four former employees in getting their own dealerships on the ground: Lynn Layton Chevrolet in Decatur; Ronnie Watkins Ford in Gadsden; Colonial Chevrolet Buick Inc. in Talladega and Conrad Hawkins Chevrolet in Jacksonville, Florida.
Just like his dad, Edwards Jr. said he “started working here as a teenager, in the parts department, washing cars, putting up parts and I worked a little bit in the mechanical department. Eventually, I went to college and studied sales and marketing as well.” When he came on full time with the family business, he began in the sales department.
Next in line may be Lee Edwards III, who at age 17 is already working part time in the parts department.
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,200 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.