CLANTON / BIRMINGHAM – While Stokes Automotive has been in business for 63 years, it has only been in its current location for the past eight years.
“Our sales have doubled and our service work has tripled,” since the business moved next to the city of Clanton’s iconic peach-shaped water tower right off Interstate 65, said Kirk A. Stokes, president and dealer for the General Motors and Chrysler dealership. Stokes’ father founded the family business in 1954.
“They advertise that they are under the peach,” said Janice Hull, director of the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce. “Picking that location didn’t happen randomly. They did that on purpose.”
Strategic marketing and expansion to commercial and fleet business earned Stokes and Stokes Automotive the 2017 Silver Alabama Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales More Than $20 Million category. The Alabama Retail Association honored him today at the Alabama Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham, which is held in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business.
It was Stokes Automotive’s customer service that convinced the chamber to nominate Stokes
as a Retailer of the Year and the quality that most impressed the Alabama Retailer of the Year judges. “We recently got a letter from someone out of state just praising the service they got,” said Hull. The dealership “went above and beyond with that service,” she added.
The letter was from a Michigan couple whose 2005 minivan broke down while on their way to Florida for spring break. They praised the dealership for first offering to lend them a vehicle to go to Birmingham to rent a vehicle, then lending them a van for their vacation when there were no suitable vehicles available to rent and no vacancies in local hotels where they could wait while their van got fixed.
“We have a lot of people in transit” who come into the dealership, said Stokes. “We pride ourselves on helping them out, getting them to a hotel and getting their cars fixed in a timely manner.”
Being 50 miles from Montgomery and Birmingham also draws in customers from all over central Alabama, said Stokes. Sales Manager Mike Nicholas regularly appears in television commercials dressed in boxing gloves and attire declaring that Stokes Automotive “clobbers big city prices.” Nicholas understands that lower overhead means lower prices, his boss said. “It is not like someone we are paying (as a spokesman).” Stokes said. “Mike works here every day.”
“Kirk Stokes is a retailer of the year EVERY year to the Stokes Automotive customers, his 60 employees and the Clanton and the greater Chilton County communities,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown.
Stokes Automotive, which the Chilton County chamber has recognized as its Business of the Year, was one of 14 Retailers of the Year honored at today’s luncheon. This year’s winners came from a pool of more than 90 nominees. The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities.
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.