ACWORTH — Selling cars has been a way of life for Day’s Chevrolet owner Calvin Diemer for 40 years. He has worked in every department of his Acworth car dealership, including his first job of washing cars at age 13.
Day’s Chevrolet was founded by his grandfather, Levi Day, and Calvin’s father, Jack Diemer, in September 1959, just six months after Calvin was born.
Diemer grew up working in the body shop and parts department, and he began in the sales department at age 19. In 1986, he and his brother officially took over the dealership, making Diemer, then 26, one of the youngest General Motors dealers in the country.
The brothers worked together until 2000, when Calvin Diemer bought out his brother. Their father died in 2006. But their mother, Becky Day Diemer, still works full-time as the office manager, as she has done for more than 50 years.
As with nearly every other car dealership in the country, the recession drastically affected sales. But this year, Diemer said he expects to sell 1,100 used cars and 900 new cars, with $75 million in revenues.
The best-selling model is the Equinox, he said, while the most expensive is still the Corvette. A special edition Corvette displayed in the showroom recently sold for $117,000.
“Domestic cars don’t have to apologize for quality anymore,” Diemer said.
Although the company did not have to lay off any of its 100 employees in recent years, the lean times did yield lessons, he said.
“It gave us an opportunity to manage better. It made us all a little sharper on the day-to-day operations,” Diemer said. “It was learning experience unlike any other.”
The recession also changed customers’ car buying habits, he said.
“In 2008, when the economy really took a turn, people started buying used. Price of used is now going up because of demand, but with interest rates and all the incentivized rebates we have, the best deals now are actually with new,” Diemer said.
In 2003, Diemer moved the dealership from its original seven-acre location in downtown Acworth to 28 acres on North Cobb Parkway. At the time, the area was completely undeveloped, but not so today.
“It was the only thing over here. Everybody thinks I knew something about the future growth, but I just stumbled in,” Diemer said.
Marietta attorney Robert Ingram describes Diemer as the only person he knows who makes more money away from work. Ingram said Diemer has a magnetic personality — which enables him to sell cars wherever he goes.
“Calvin is a throwback to a time when your word and a handshake meant as much as a formal contract,” Ingram said.
Diemer met his future wife, Meleah, when she was just 12 years old and her family moved in next door to his.
“I can say that I really married the girl next door,” he said.
After graduating from North Cobb High School in Acworth in 1977, Diemer went to Middle Georgia College to play baseball, but got homesick and Meleah drew him back home. He studied at what is now Kennesaw State University, but left to start working after he and Meleah married.
“I regret that I didn’t go back and finish college,” Diemer said. “I see now how important it is with my own sons, but I worked all the time.”
The couple’s two sons are now the fourth generation at the family business. Daniel, 27, is general manager of the Acworth dealership; and Andrew, 24, is general manager of the second Day’s Chevrolet, in Jasper. Each has 25 percent ownership in the company.
“It’s a great place to watch my sons do business the same way their great-grandfather did business,” Diemer said. “At the end of the day, it all carries on.”
EXECUTIVE PROFILE: CALVIN DIEMER
* TITLE: Owner, Day’s Chevrolet
* AGE: 53
* EDUCATION: North Cobb High School, 1977; studied at Kennesaw State University
* FAMILY: Wife, Meleah; Sons: Daniel, 27, Andrew, 24
* FIRST JOB: Washing cars at dealership
* BEST JOB: Now working as an owner and partner with my two sons, and providing them and our managers with the best resources to succeed.
* LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY: Stay invested in the business you know best.
* ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Don’t give up. Keep working hard, and things will eventually get better in this economy.