Kelley Buick GMC

Kelley Buick GMC

Doing Whatever it Takes

BY MARIA IANNUCCI

Stop for a moment and think: when was the last time you met someone born and raised in Polk County? How about the spouse? Were their children born here? Derrick Kelley, owner of Kelley Buick GMC in Bartow, has been a proud resident of Auburndale since the day he was born. His wife of 27 years, Marie, also hails from Auburndale. Their children, Erika Kelley Cox and Tyler Kelley, are also hometowners, as are both of their grandmothers.

“People often ask me why I remain in Polk County,” Derrick said. “I’ve done a lot of traveling and have NEVER found a better place to raise my family and be in business.”

Derrick and Marie

Derrick’s love of the area has only grown through decades of growth and change; it’s never faltered. And his desire to live, work and be a part of the Polk County business community has been decades in the making.

When Kelley’s father returned home from being stationed in Germany in the early 60s, he began working as a mechanic at a Winter Haven auto dealership and remained in the industry through the 70s; some of the toughest times that the automotive business has seen.

“My father entered the military right out of school,” Derrick shared. “Dad opened his own lot (Kelley’s Used Cars) in 1970 right on Hwy. 92. We also had a repair shop; offered paint, body work, and towing. As his son, I was a part of the business from a young age; I’ve been in the car business all my life. Being in the family business from childhood, I took a different form of education that I didn’t realize I had gotten.”

After Derrick graduated from high school in 1983, he sold his truck and used the money to buy and sell cars on the side; he made enough to open Orange Street Autos on Hwy. 92 in that same year, and it remained there for a decade.

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In 1993, Alan Walker encouraged Derrick to get into the fencing business, and the men formed a partnership to offer a quality product and excellent service. He attributes the success of the business to one thing.

“If you treat people as you do your close friends and family, you will never have to worry where your business will com e from.”

By 1997, Derrick opened Affordable Auto & Truck Parts, now known as All Pro Auto Parts, too. Derrick credits his partners’ willingness to take ownership as a top factor of their success.

2008 turned out to be a year of opportunity for Mr. Kelley, as well as one for completing the circle.

“I’d already opened up a car lot, had been self-financing customers for years, run a parts business and been around all phases of auto repair and sales,” Kelley said. “The chance to have my own dealership was something new I wanted to be involved in. (The) GMC (Sierra) has the very best resale value, and a very high level of customer loyalty and retention. And the all-new Buick has kept in touch with customers by holding its value and being dependable and economical to operate. I believe that American manufacturers have done a tremendous job.”

Tyler Kelley

Today, Kelley Buick GMC stands proudly after a recent complete renovation, while remaining a small family dealership. Kelley, his family, partner Russell Hernandez, and staff all stand behind what they uniquely offer:

“Test drives are free. American jobs are being exported overseas – you can choose to keep jobs and resources in our country and we can all benefit from that.

“We have a small dealership with a lot of experience. The small dealer gives consumers the advantage; what we save on overhead, we pass along to our customers.

“We have Polk County’s largest selection of custom 4-wheel drive vehicles. We don’t want to be the biggest dealership; we want to be the best. You know you have a successful business when the people you care most about come into your business unannounced and your staff treats them like one of the family. Ours is a dealership based on reliability, trust and doing all it takes to make our customer happy and willing to refer us to friends and family.

And if you would ever have an issue, small or great, Derrick isn’t hard to find. “Don’t worry about who is responsible,” said Derrick. “That’s me, and my name is on the sign.”

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