Although the Weiss family is celebrating 25 years of owning and operating Heritage Chevrolet Buick GMC in Lugoff, the real story started 54 years ago in 1961.
That’s when Julius Love opened a dealership in Sumter, according to his grandchildren, Wayne A. Weiss and Mindy Watkins. Weiss heads the dealership; Watkins, his sister, is the dealership’s office manager.
In 1966, Weiss said, his grandfather moved to Columbia and opened Love Chevrolet, one of the most recognizable dealership names in the Midlands.
“Our father (Howard Weiss) and I came over and bought the dealership in December 1988,” Weiss said, referring to a dealership which already existed on U.S. 1 in Lugoff, but originally did business in downtown Camden.
“It goes back generations,” Watkins said.
At first, the Weiss and Love family called their new business LNE Chevrolet Buick. LNE stood for “Love North East,” Weiss said. Two years later, 1990, he and his father changed the name to Heritage Chevrolet Buick. Watkins said they added a GMC/Pontiac franchise in 2007. GMC has since dropped the Pontiac brand.
Wednesday morning, GMC District Sales Manager for South Carolina Iran Cummings and GMC Southeast Region Service Development Manager Calvin Ross stopped by the dealership to congratulate the siblings on their 25 years of dealership success. They presented two plaques, one recognizing Weiss as a 25-year dealer of Buicks; the other for the same success with Chevrolets.
“It shows a level of consistency and good relations in the community,” Cummings said of Heritage’s longevity. “They have a good customer base, which is displayed through customer satisfaction scores.”
Howard Weiss retired in 1997, his children said, but Watkins’ husband, Keith is the dealership’s sales manager. Watkins talked about how they’re committed to keeping the family business going.
“Just from growing up in the car business -- it’s all we’ve ever talked about,” she said.
Other members of the Heritage team feel like family because they’ve worked there for so long, some since the beginning.
“We have a technician who’s been here since before we bought the store. Jerry Dority -- and his father and uncle worked here, too,” Watkins said. “In the accounting office, there’s Sandy Wicker. She’s been with us the whole time. We hired her at the start.”
In addition, she said, Service Manager Jay Smith was hired 22 years ago in 1993.
“We have many other employees who have been 15 or more years,” Watkins said.
Weiss said they are especially thankful for the support from across Kershaw County.
“We thank them for supporting us for 25 years and look forward to serving them another 25 years,” he said.
Watkins said Heritage has many loyal customers -- some of whom visit on a regular basis even when they’re not buying a new car or truck.
“We have some people who come by on Saturday just to see what (new vehicles) we have out,” Watkins said. “We’ve made a whole lot of friends … (who) keep coming back. People don’t like to have to go too far to shop for a new car. So, we see a lot of the same people, although we’d love to see more people, too.”
A lot has changed in 25 years, Weiss and Watkins said, mostly in terms of technology. Watkins pointed to technological changes in the way the company communicates with customers, the technology in vehicles and the technology customers can use to purchase vehicles.
But, Weiss said, there’s one thing which won’t change.
“It seems like there’s change every day,” he said, “but it all boils down to taking care of our customers.”