Story by Heather Feeler | Nov 02, 2015
Photography by Anthony Jinson
Honesty, transparency and hard work attract generational customers to Riley Auto Group.
Michael J. Fox once said, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” These words ring true for the Riley family, who has spent nearly 80 years working together to build a business they believe in right here in Jefferson City.
The family passion for the car business started with Don F. Riley, a young man born in Michigan at the heart of the automotive industry. After working for Chevrolet, Don started his own car dealership in Jefferson City in 1936. His son, Don B. Riley, followed in his footsteps later building and expanding the business to a larger location on Christy Drive in 1970. As the generations of family grew, so did the family business.
Today, the three Riley brothers, Carey, Kevin and Mike, have merged their father’s business and the Toyota dealership they started together in 1993 into a completely remodeled and expanded complex off Christy Drive. The two facilities offer the newest line of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Toyota, Scion brands and pre-owned vehicles, as well as a state-of-the-art collision center, which repairs both foreign and domestic brands. While the buildings have expanded over the years, Riley’s still offers the same family-friendly atmosphere customers have come to know. However, it’s not just the Riley name that makes you family.
“We’ve had other generations of families employed at our stores, including several who have worked here for more than 40 years,” Carey says. “When you see people grow up, get married, have kids and then grandchildren, your family is more than just your immediate family. It’s bigger.”As Kevin often articulates, “We don’t change hands, we shake hands.’”
While the team has remained consistent, the business is nimble with meeting ever-changing customer needs as the car industry continues to shift and evolve. Everything is now digital. According to Carey, customers used to visit a dealership multiple times during their search for a vehicle, but now they do most of their research online before ever visiting a dealership. While there might be less visits, it doesn’t make a buying experience any less thrilling.
“It’s exciting to see first-time car buyers exercise their independence by making that first purchase,” Carey says. “It’s all about relationships, and trust is key. You feel good about it, and you hope that you make your customer feel good about it too.” Customers are not the only topic that sparks excitement for Carey. You can see the love and admiration he has for his family, including his brothers, kids and nephews, as he talks about how they each play a role in the business. He even willingly shares one office space with all of his brothers. According the Carey, the shared office is an acquired appreciation that was years in the making.
“At the end of a day, month or year, you remember the risk that was taken by someone you loved in order to build this business to make it grow and flourish,” Carey says. “We’ve taken risks at different times and when times are good, we’re thankful. When times aren’t as good, we’re still thankful.”
Gratitude continues to surface when talking about their community as well. Jefferson City is home not only for their business but also for their families. Giving back has been ingrained in all the generations of the Riley family, including Carey’s son, Kyle, who is a sales consultant at the store.
“We are just like any other small business that has a great impact on local communities,” Kyle says. “With a family-owned business like ours, the money you spend here stays here.”
Although conditions in the car industry can be tough, the Riley’s hope that by earning business the honest, straight forward and transparent way (as they’ve been doing since 1936), it will allow their business to thrive for future generations.
“New technology with cutting-edge products from both GM and Toyota brands coupled with a family-business atmosphere means customers experience a high level of commitment to excellence not only in the car sales or service environment but also in the community,” Mike says.
Riley Auto Group is located at 2033 and 2105 Christy Dr. in Jefferson City. For more information visit www.goriley.com.