About JC Lewis Ford Savannah
“To a business man there are many pleasures besides the mere making of profit. If he has a worthy commodity to sell…in which he has confidence…he may experience a peculiar pleasure and happiness…in the dignity and ethics of his profession.”
J.C. Lewis Ford is proud to be Georgia’s oldest, continually owned and operated automobile dealership. We are proud to have served Savannah and the surrounding community since 1912, below is a brief overview of our company’s history. We are extremely grateful to all of our outstanding customers and exceptional employees who have supported us over the years. Without their material contributions and dedication we would not have had the opportunity to serve the community for all these years.
- J.C. Lewis Sr., who worked for the Packard dealer, T.A. Bryson , was approached by his golf buddy, Jimmy Weeks about buying his Ford dealership located at 309 Bull St across from the old Desoto Hotel. In spite of many doubters who wondered if Ford would really make it, Mr. Lewis wanted to buy it, but couldn’t afford it, so Mr. Weeks graciously agreed to finance the $500 transaction.
- J.C. Lewis Sr. relocated the dealership to the corner of Oglethorpe and Barnard Streets, where the SCAD dorm, Oglethorpe House currently stands. The old service department building faces Orleans Square and the JC Lewis Motor Co sign can still be seen on it today.
- During that same year, the company took applications for an office boy. A 15 year old boy named Sam Steinberg applied for the job, only after being persuaded by his father to buy a pair of long pants for the interview. Mr. Lewis told Sam he was looking for someone who would permanent, as he didn’t want anyone who would quit on him. Sam went on to become a valued and trusted employee and when Mr. Lewis died in 1942, his son JC Lewis, Jr. was only 17 years old and was still in school. Sam, not only ran the dealership until J.C. Lewis Jr. finished school, but stayed on as his right hand man and trusted advisor right up until his death at age 95. Sam Steinberg worked at J.C. Lewis Ford for 80 years and was undoubtedly true to his word, a permanent fixture here that shaped the company over his many years of service.
In 1962, when Mr. Lewis was 36 years old, he relocated the dealership to a new, growing, south-side section of Savannah, 5505 Abercorn St, just south of Derenne Ave. In an effort to continue serving his downtown customers, he also opened up a new, separate dealership, Curtis Ford at 500 Montgomery St.
Not one to sit still and be content with the status quo, Mr. Lewis continued to think about the future. Having already been instrumental in the development of Savannah’s south-side, he foresaw tremendous growth, even further south to the point he envisioned a farm on Abercorn Extension becoming a row of automobile dealerships. Around 1969 or 70, he purchased the farm and sold the first parcel to Dan Vaden with the understanding, if he built his Chevy dealership there, Mr. Lewis would build next to him. Other dealerships followed by moving to Abercorn and they attracted other retail establishments. Mr. Lewis’ vision of an Automobile Dealer Row kick started the Southside’s growth and today, 40 years later, is still the highest trafficked area in Savannah’s automobile business.
- J.C. Lewis Jr. inherits the dealership and begins to learn the business via a pay-phone from Woodberry Forest School in Virginia
- At age 23, J.C. Lewis Jr opened a separate Ford truck and Ford tractor sales location at a Bay St Extension location
- During the nineteen fifty’s and sixties, while Mr. Lewis was still in his 20’s and 30’s, he expanded the business by opening a second Tractor location in Springfield, acquired two taxi cab companies and an Avis Rent-a Car franchise, added the Lincoln, Mercury, and Edsel franchises, expanded into Florida with two additional Ford locations and even became the distributor of two German makes, Lloyd and Goliath. Lloyd and Goliath didn’t make it and he got stuck with unsold inventory. Always looking to make a deal, Mr. Lewis traded all of them for a 72’ converted Russian PT boat named the Mistress. He thought he could sell the Mistress easier than he could sell the cars. He did.
- As Mr. Lewis continued to build the business, one of his six children, Walter N. Lewis joined the business full-time after college in 1975. Walter will tell you that he was extremely fortunate to be able to work with his father almost every day until his death in 2005. Walter is the third generation principal at the dealership, and feels honored, privileged and blessed to have followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. The same virtues and beliefs that allowed the business to succeed at the beginning of the 20th century are still in place today. The company recently modernized its Savannah facility to better serve its customers and has also expanded into Statesboro and Hinesville with ambitious new facility plans underway. The family operated tradition continues, as two members of the fourth generation of the Lewis family also work with the company.
- 2012, J.C. Lewis Ford celebrates 100 years in business with a visit from Ford family members and executives. Pictured are Ford executives Jim Farley (far left), Edsel Ford II (far right) and Walter N. Lewis and Nancy Nelson Lewis of J.C. Lewis Ford.
- 2015, Walter N. Lewis is honored by the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association as a 2015 ‘Time Dealer of the Year’ Nominee