This story was originally published in The Star-Herald.
By James Phillips
Stephen Franks has been selling cars for 30 years. Since 2008, he has been an owner of Franks Chevrolet in his hometown of Kosciusko.
“It was a goal of mine forever to be part of a dealership,” he said. “Even when I lived in Jackson for several years, Kosciusko was still home. We love Kosciusko, and we are glad to be here serving and helping in whatever areas that we can.”
While working at a Fred’s Dollar Store as a 17 year old, Franks said he bought a car and sold it, and then bought a second car and sold it. Both times he made a little money off the sales.
“After I sold that second car, I decided on a Friday that I was quitting my job and was going to go into the car business,” he said. “That was 30 years ago.”
Franks said he worked for a time in Kosciusko but decided to move to Jackson.
“I didn’t even have a car at the time,” he said. “I called a buddy that had a car lot and asked him to send somebody to get me. Two hours later, I was moving to Jackson and started working for Red Smith Auto Sales.”
Franks then went on to work at Gray Daniels Ford before coming back to take over the Kosciusko dealership in 2008.
“It is a little known fact that I have worked at this location three different times,” he said. “I worked here for a day when I had first started selling cars. Then I came back at one point and worked a half day here,” he said. “Then I came back on Oct. 18, 2008 and got the key.”
The dealership has been at its current location since the 1960s. Franks has two partners, Dr. Tom Crowson and Greg Smith, both of Meridian. Crowson has been a part of the dealership since the 1980s.
Franks became a part of the dealership just as the recession hit in 2008. He said the poor economic conditions were a key in his ability to come on board.
“The things that came into play in order for me to get into this dealership was partly because of the economy,” he said. “The economy had to be real, real bad or I never would have had the opportunity because of the dollars.”
There was a time when Franks said he was afraid he would be the short-term dealer, because General Motors filed for bankruptcy in late April 2009 after his dealership was approved in March.
“I thought I might be the shortest term GM dealer in history, because GM started cutting dealers in small, rural towns,” he said. “Several other small towns lost their stores at that time, but we didn’t.”
In the year before Franks took over, the dealership sold around 400 total cars. In 2014, Franks Chevy sold 973 total cars.
“We have good people up here that work,” he said. “We made changes to the personnel when we took over. If you surround yourself with good people, then good things happen is the way I look at it.”
Along with new cars, the dealership has a $4 million used car inventory. The cheapest car on the lot will sell for around $3,000, while the most expensive car currently on the lot is a 1966 Corvette which has a price tag of $90,000. Franks said the lot will soon have a new Corvette with a listed price of $119,000.
“I enjoy being able to make people happy,” he said. “When someone gets a new car, that is usually a happy moment in their life. We try to be honest to people and treat them as we would want to be treated. I feel like if we do that, then everything else will take care of itself.”