The Fairey family name and cars are synonymous.
Fairey Chevrolet Cadillac got its start near the birth of the American auto industry and now, almost 100 years later, the Orangeburg dealership is embarking on the next leg of a historic journey.
Joseph K. Fairey III retired and stepped down as dealer, handing over the reins to his son, Joseph K. Fairey IV. The change will bring the fourth generation of the Fairey family into the car dealership business.
“I am very grateful to my family for the opportunity to lead this great company and I will remain true to our core values while serving our customers past, present and future,” said Fairey IV, 35. “There are definitely challenges and changes ahead in our industry.”
“So many years of blood, sweat and tears have gone into our store to get us to this point,” Fairey IV said.
Fairey IV is one of the youngest dealers in an industry in which dealers are typically middle-aged or older.
“Joseph is very deserving,” said Fairey III, 65, who has worked in the automotive industry for 43 years. “He will do a good job.
“It was great fun having Joseph by my side,” Fairey III continued. “I tried to instill in him the right way to do things, to be disciplined and to do things in order to be successful.”
Fairey III said he also stressed the importance of service to his son.
“I think it is important to serve Orangeburg and the surrounding community, which we have done our best for 95 years,” said Fairey III.
Fairey IV grew up around the dealership.
He held 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 management degree with a minor in economics.
Fairey IV said getting out of college at the height of the recession and finding a job was tough. He was able to do it at Fairey Chevrolet Cadillac.
“I was fortunate enough to become a salesperson,” Fairey IV said.
Fairey IV became the sales manager of the dealership in 2009, a position he has held ever since.
Now that he’s taken the lead, Fairey IV says he plans to bounce his father’s questions and the two will talk about business once a month.
But Fairey IV, who was heavily involved in all aspects of the dealership, said he was confident he could run the business. Fairey Chevrolet currently employs around 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 stated that most dealerships have multiple dealerships in more than one state and are not always on-site.
“We’re unique because the operator dealer is actually in the store and is here every day,” Fairey III said.
As he takes over, Fairey IV says there are changes on the horizon and not just for Fairey Chevrolet, but for all dealerships as the country becomes increasingly electric.
“The next big push is electric vehicles,” Fairey IV said.
By 2030, the dealership is looking to convert about 27% of its sales from new cars to electric.
“We’ll 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 dealership in many ways coincides with the invention of the automobile.
Philip Fairey was born in 1892, a very exciting time in American history.
The world was changing and Fairey fell in love with automobiles.
In 1913, with a Ford agency deal in hand, he began selling Ford automobiles, motorcycles, fuel, and bicycles, as well as repairing and maintaining automobiles.
At 26, Philip Fairey married Isabel Strait of Rock Hill.
Fairey, with his young wife, lived in Greenville for a few years. His heart belonged to Calhoun County and his passion for the auto industry had not been satisfied while trying to enter the grocery industry.
Fairey entered the United States Army in World War I.
When he returned from the war, his contract with the Ford agency was no longer in effect. It was before the franchise laws.
Trying to find another business venture, Fairey launched into the grocery store in Greenville.
In 1925 he returned home to work for the Crutchfield Motor Company in St. Matthews. Fairey saw great hope for the growing auto business and bought the dealership and started selling Chevrolets, gasoline, appliances and tires.
Yes, times were changing, but Philip Fairey had learned that a man’s word and handshake was his bond, and that was how he treated every customer.
World War II veteran Joseph Koger Fairey II (named after his grandfather), Philip and Isabel’s third child, boarded with his father after completing his service in his country.
Like his father, he had a great desire to take the automotive industry to another level. In 1951, Fairey Motor Company got a makeover and a new modern building was opened on Bridge Street in St. Matthews. Cars were moving, father and son too.
In the 1980s, Philip and his wife, aged 88 and 84, took another turn in their lives. The Faireys have built a solar-powered house next to their Georgian-style house outside of St. Matthews. The two thought they would never leave their home, but changed their minds.
In 1978, Fairey III joined his father in the automotive industry at the age of 22 and built his new life in the Georgian house of his grandparents.
Fairey III, like the generations before him, understood that the times were synonymous with change.
In order to grow and serve the growing market, he took on GM’s challenge in 1993 and purchased Courtesy Chevrolet (formerly Wannamaker Motor Co). In 1998, they purchased the Cadillac and Oldsmobile franchises from Burg Automotive (formerly JW Pickens Company).
In 1996, Joe K. Fairey III moved Fairey Motor and his company from Broughton Street to its current location on US Highway 601 outside of Orangeburg.
Over the past four decades, Fairey III has said there have been changes.
“The biggest change is in the way we market cars,” said Fairey III. “Electronic media, the Internet, social media: today’s world has created an almost completely different sales system when customers always came to buy a car. “
“It has made it very competitive because people have access to information from everywhere,” said Fairey III. “Consumers are extremely well informed.”
Fast forward to 2021 and Fairey Chevrolet Cadillac is going strong.
Longevity is attributed to loyal customers as well as the “honesty, transparency and customer focus” business model, said Fairey IV.
As Fairey III walks away towards the proverbial sunset, he says he plans to help his son with all the help he needs to be successful.
But he’s also looking forward to playing more golf and traveling both in the mountains and the coast with his wife, Becky.
As for the young Fairey, he hopes to instill the family’s love for the auto trade in his young children. He is the father of three daughters under the age of 6.
“It would obviously be a dream of mine to be able to give them the opportunity if they wanted to continue,” said Fairey IV.