It was a little over 33 years ago when Don Ledford Sr. purchased land in an open, empty field on North Lee Highway and built his new car dealership for Pontiac and Buick. At the time, no one knew what was in store for this area, but Ledford had a vision and today it has come full circle.
Today, the dealership is a “shining star” at this same spot, and it is situated in the midst of a bustling business district surrounded by a shopping mall, restaurants, businesses and a daily flow of traffic traveling north and south each day on Highway 11 (North Lee Highway).
The new Don Ledford Automotive Center is now complete and offers four brands of vehicles — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. Its journey these past 33 years is one that will go down in history as a tribute to the tenacity of its businesses owners, family, staff and loyal customers.
Debbie Ledford Melton, following in her father’s footsteps, is now at the helm of the Don Ledford Automotive Center at 4595 North Lee Highway. She took on the challenge to keep the family business thriving and to bring it into the 21st century in a new modern facility that reaches far above industry standards.
In 2009 when General Motors dealerships across the nation were being closed, she began to rally the community to save her family’s business and carry on the tradition her father had established.
A communitywide support rally in 2009 set the pace for the next few years to follow. Overwhelming shows of support and encouragement came from city and county leaders, legislators, family, staff, friends and most of all customers and past customers. Petitions were signed, calls were made, emails sent, video messages sent via YouTube — and the rest is history.
Melton took the fight to the doors of GM and won back the Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealership brands. She developed and implemented a business plan that impressed GM enough to not only award her back the brands, but also now include her in national meetings to discuss the future of the industry. In 2011, she was named to serve on the GM Women’s Dealer Advisory Council. But she didn’t stop there. When the 60-plus year Chevrolet dealership in Cleveland closed its doors, she applied to return the brand and obtained the rights.
Melton, said her father Don Ledford Sr., founder/owner of Don Ledford Automotive Center, as well as Jack Hall Sr., who owned Hall Chevrolet, both are to be commended for the family traditions they instilled in this community through the years as GM dealers.
“I want that family tradition to continue and adding Chevrolet back in Cleveland allowed us the best variety of vehicle choices found anywhere. The Hall family had a loyal following of Chevrolet customers and we wanted those customers to be able to purchase and service their vehicles in Cleveland without having to travel out of town. The Hall family had a great legacy of friendly and professional service and we intend to follow their example now that we have Chevrolet back home in Cleveland. “
With the return of the GM brands and Chevrolet, the next step was to refurbish and redesign the physical location to expand its Service Department, add showrooms for all brands, enlarge parking areas, install new lighting and provide for more customer service-friendly amenities.
With the able assist of Tri Con Construction and owner Casson Conn, Melton began planning and designing this new 13,605-square-foot addition, which brings the dealership to over 27,165 square feet.
The result of this 12-month building project is now open and operational. The lot is filled with the four dealership brands, an expanded used car area, the service department is updated and customers are rediscovering the tradition that has long been in the Ledford family.
Decorated throughout with the popular colors of the brands, the dealership takes on a totally new look with its bright blue Chevrolet colors and its ever-classic Cadillac black icons. The décor is carried out throughout the new complex and campus.
A number of the new features included into the new design of the Don Ledford Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealership are:
n New Service Department
A new and expanded Service Department offers the latest in technology for more efficient and economic service to all vehicles, regardless of make or model. Led by Dave Hermann, the team of certified technicians has a combined 368 years of experience in the industry. Each one is trained through extensive auto-certified programs, making each of them GM experts. The Service Department has a garage style entrance and climate controlled bay and offices. Waiting rooms in the area are equipped with a Business Friendly Lounge with Wi-Fi and a quiet work space. Desk type chairs are made available for paperwork or computer work as needed. The Hospitality counter is complete with coffee, sodas, water, popcorn, and a special TV room is provided along with a children’s playroom. Every convenience has been taken into consideration for the comfort and convenience of customers and guests who visit the Service Department.
n Expanded, Paved, Lighted Lot
The newly paved, striped and lighted dealership lot is expanded to provide for the increased inventory and parking. It gives the sprawling campus of vehicles a better traffic flow for better visibility when shopping for a new car, truck or SUV.
n Two Beautiful Showrooms
Two beautiful showrooms are equipped for the sales team members and customers.
n Customer Delivery Bay
Among the newest modern concepts is the beautiful Customer Delivery Bay, which centers between the two new showrooms. The Customer Delivery Bay allows customers to be in a climate-controlled environment while they transfer items from their old vehicle into their new one. And it gives the feel of “driving off the showroom floor” as they exit driving their newly purchased vehicle.
n Conference & Training Room
A new and exciting feature of the new Don Ledford Automotive Center is a large Conference and Training Room. The room has a divider that allows two groups to utilize it at one time, or opens up into a Conference Room for larger gatherings.
A service area inside this room allows for catering and serving meals. Technology offers availability for Wi-Fi and for large and small media presentations. It offers staff a place for their continuous training classes, while also opens up a place where some public events can be held on occasion.
With the new, modern exterior design, Don Ledford Automotive Center at 4595 North Lee Highway offers an appealing addition to the northern business district. Its neighbor, Bradley Square Mall, also has new construction and new businesses under way as it modernizes and expands shopping services. The two new projects complement one another in aesthetics and in convenience. “We are proud to be a part of this progress and even prouder to offer this area Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac sales and service in our new facility,” said Melton.