EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a five-part series highlighting this year’s finalists for Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year. The winner will be announced at the Blue Sapphire Gala annual dinner and awards presentation on Saturday, June 1 at the Milledgeville Country Club.
Providing respect and top-of-the-line customer service has been Jimmy Childre’s basic consistent principal for the past 62 years. His career in the automotive industry began when he started managing a Chevrolet dealership in 1952 in his hometown of Reynolds.
“I graduated from college with a degree in agriculture in 1952 and I was a teacher. I married a girl whose dad worked in a Chevrolet dealership and I started in the car business as a manager there,” Childre said. “I’ve always liked cars, and it seemed like I was suited for it because I became successful.”
After a dozen years of experiencing every aspect within the dealership business, little did Childre know his principals were building the foundation of what is now a well-known legacy.
“In 1964, I bought the Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership in Sandersville and then I applied for the franchise and I was awarded by General Motors, so it then became Childre Chevrolet,” Childre said. “In 1984, Chrysler asked me to open a Dodge dealership in Milledgeville. I opened Dodge Division of Chrysler next door [to the current Childre Nissan dealership] selling cars and trucks.”
With the import car industry taking hold, Childre saw a need to expand. Eight years later, Childre added the Nissan brand to his extensive lineup of pre-owned and new vehicles.
“Over the last three years, we’ve seen continual growth in new car and used car sales through new product offerings by Nissan,” said Jason, Childre’s son and general manager of the local dealership. “We do not play games to try to push people in the cars that do not fit their needs. Instead, we listen to our customers to find a vehicle that fits their lifestyles and budgets. We grow our customer-base by being very consistent in our business practices.”
Childre Nissan recently completed renovations to the building in order to commit to the new Nissan image.
“Nissan made a commitment on product launches that it was the perfect time to commit to them with a new image that aligned with their goals of a consistent look. Our renovations included a new storefront, a lot of detailing to the exterior and new elements,” Jason said. “We are looking forward to a new lineup of trucks and large volume crossover coming within 12 months.”
The local dealership now operates with a staff of seven employees with more than 10 years tenure and three family generations, including Childre’s grandson Josh Coffey, finance manager.
“Dad’s wishes are to have his family engaged as much as possible in this business. He’s got his son and grandson on board and wishes for it to continue as long as possible,” Jason said. “He would like to see his great grandson here in the future.”
Childre Nissan is one of five finalists for Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year.
“We’re thankful for the community for being as committed to us as we are to them,” Jason said.
“Milledgeville is a good place to live and raise children. The community has been real good to us and has a loyalty of buying from us,” Jimmy added. “It’s very satisfying to see [my son and grandson]; it makes me proud and gives me a reason to come to work.”
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