ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — The Fairey family name and cars are synonymous.
Fairey Chevrolet Cadillac had its beginning near the birth of the American automotive industry and now, almost 100 years later, the Orangeburg dealership is embarking on the next step in a historic journey.
Joseph K. Fairey III has retired and stepped down as the dealer operator, handing the reins to his son, Joseph K. Fairey IV. The change will bring the fourth generation of the Fairey family into the automotive dealership business.
“I am so thankful to my family for the opportunity to lead this great business and will stay loyal to our core values while serving our past, present and future customers,” 35-year-old Fairey IV said. “There are certainly challenges and changes ahead in our industry.”
“So many years of blood, sweat and tears have been poured into our store to get us to this point,” Fairey IV said.
Fairey IV is one of the youngest dealer operators in an industry in which dealer operators are typically middle-aged or older.
“Joseph is very deserving,” said the 65-year old Fairey III, who has been in the automotive business for the past 43 years. “He will do a good job.”
“It has been a lot of fun having Joseph work along beside me,” Fairey III continued. “I have tried to instill in him the right way to do things, to be disciplined and do the things to be successful.”
Fairey III said he has also stressed to his son the importance of service.
“I think it is important to serve the Orangeburg and surrounding community, which we have tried the best to do for 95 years,” Fairey III said.
Fairey IV grew up around the dealership.
He worked various jobs at the dealership while a student at Calhoun Academy and later at Clemson University.
Fairey IV graduated from Clemson in 2008, receiving a degree in management while minoring in economics.
Fairey IV said coming out of college during the height of the recession and finding a job was difficult. He was able to do so at Fairey Chevrolet Cadillac.
“I was lucky enough to come on as a salesperson,” Fairey IV said.
Fairey IV in 2009 became the dealership’s sales manager, a position he has held ever since.
Now that he has taken over leadership, Fairey IV says he plans to bounce questions off his father and the two will talk business about once a month.
But Fairey IV, who has been heavily involved in all aspects of the dealership, says he is confident in being able to run the business. Fairey Chevrolet currently employs about 30.
In addition to being unique in its longevity, Fairey Chevrolet Cadillac is also unique in that it is owned and operated on site.
Fairey IV said most dealer operators own multiple dealerships in several states and are not always present on site.
“We are unique because the dealer operator is actually in the store and is present here every day,” Fairey III said.
As he takes over, Fairey IV says there are some changes on the horizon and not only for Fairey Chevrolet, but for all dealers as the country goes more and more electric.
“The next big push is electric vehicles,” Fairey IV said.
By 2030, the dealership is looking to have about 27% of its new car sales as electric.
“We will have to invest in the fast chargers — the 220 chargers and obviously the tools to work on them,” Fairey IV said.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The family-owned and operated dealership in many ways coincides with the invention of the automobile.
Philip Fairey was born in 1892, which was a very exciting time in American history.
The world was changing and Fairey fell in love with automobiles.
In 1913, with a Ford Agency agreement in hand, he began selling Ford automobiles, motorcycles, fuel and bicycles, and repairing and servicing automobiles.
At 26, Philip Fairey married Isabel Strait of Rock Hill.
Fairey, with his young bride, lived in Greenville for a few years. His heart belonged in Calhoun County and his passion for the automobile business had not been satisfied while trying to make a go in the grocery industry.
Fairey entered the United States Army during World War I.
When he returned from the war, his Ford Agency agreement was no longer in effect. This was before franchise laws.
Trying to find another business venture, Fairey went into the grocery store business in Greenville.
In 1925, he returned home to work for Crutchfield Motor Company in St. Matthews. Fairey saw great hope for the growing automobile business and bought out the dealership and began to sell Chevrolets, gas, appliances and tires.
Yes, times were changing but Philip Fairey had been raised that a man’s word and handshake were his bond, and that was how he treated every customer.
World War II veteran Joseph Koger Fairey II (named for his grandfather), third child of Philip and Isabel, came on board with his father after completing service to his country.
Like his father, he had a great desire to take the automobile business to another level. In 1951, Fairey Motor Company took on a new look, and a new modern building was opened on Bridge Street in St. Matthews. Cars were on the move, and so were both father and son.
By the 1980s, Philip and his wife, ages 88 and 84, took another turn in their lives. The Faireys built a solar-energy home next door to their Georgian-style home outside of St. Matthews. Both thought they would never leave their home, but changed their tunes.
In 1978, Fairey III joined his father in the car business at the age of 22 and built his new life in his grandparents’ Georgian home.
Fairey III, like the generations before him, understood times meant change.
In order to grow and serve the growing market, he took the challenge from GM in 1993 and purchased Courtesy Chevrolet (formally Wannamaker Motor Co). In 1998, they purchased the Cadillac and Oldsmobile franchises from Burg Automotive (formerly J.W. Pickens Company).
In 1996, Joe K. Fairey III moved Fairey Motor and their Broughton Street company to its present location on U.S. Highway 601 outside of Orangeburg.
Over the past four decades, Fairey III said there have been changes.
“The biggest change is in the way we go to market with cars,” Fairey III said. “Electronic media, the internet, social media: Today’s world has created an almost completely different selling system whereas customers used to always come to the lot to the buy a car.”
“That has made it very competitive because people have access to information from everywhere,” Fairey III said. “Consumers are extremely knowledgeable.”
Fast forward to 2021 and Fairey Chevrolet Cadillac is going strong.
The longevity is credited to the loyal customers as well as “honesty, transparency and customer-focused” business model, Fairey IV said.
As Fairey III rides off into the proverbial sunset, he says he does plan to help his son with whatever assistance is needed for success.
But he also is looking forward to playing more golf and traveling to both the mountains and coast with his wife, Becky.
As for the younger Fairey, he is hoping to instill the family’s love of the car dealership business in his young children. He is the father of three girls under the age of 6.
“That would obviously be a dream of mine to be able to give them the opportunity if they wanted to carry it on,” Fairey IV said.