by Susan Marquez
In 1946, a young Jimmy Fowler was discharged from the military after serving in World War II. Trying to make his way back to his home in Lexington, Mississippi, from Seattle, Washington, he purchased Army surplus vehicles and had them shipped back to Jackson, Mississippi. From an eight-foot-by-ten-foot building, he sold the trucks and realized that he could make a profit in the car business. That’s how Fowler Buick GMC, a longstanding automobile dealership in the area, came to be.
Since it was founded in September 1953, the Fowler dealership has always sold Buick and GMC vehicles. Jimmy opened his first automobile dealership on South State Street, near downtown Jackson. When he wanted to add another location, General Motors declined putting it in Clinton, which is what Jimmy wanted. Instead, GM settled on a site on Highway 80 in Pearl. “It was just a two lane road with nothing out that way,” says Tom Hudson, president of Fowler Buick, and the grandson of Jimmy Fowler. “It was a big gamble that my grandfather was willing to take,” he says. “We opened the Pearl location in 1989. It turned out to be a wise decision to move to Rankin County. We have been very successful here.”
Eventually, the landscape around the Jackson location began to change. Businesses were closing and moving to the suburbs and General Motors made Fowler Buick close the location on South State Street. That was no problem for the dealership, as the Rankin County location was thriving and the business was expanding with a larger customer base than ever.
“We’ve had generations of customers shop with us,” says Tom. “People come from all over the metro area and beyond because they know they’ll get great customer service and a fair deal on an exceptional vehicle.” Fowler Buick GMC is one of the last dealerships in town that is family-owned. Tom is the son of Jimmy Fowler’s daughter, Becky. He has grown up in the dealership. “I began washing cars here every summer when I was just twelve years old,” Tom recalls. “I worked up to all kinds of jobs, doing odds and ends around the dealership throughout high school and college. I realized after graduation that no one else in our family was working in the business, and I knew that if I didn’t make a commitment to join the organization, the dealership would eventually close.” Tom succeeded Larry Cruise, who retired as the dealership’s president in 2008.
Jimmy Fowler died eight years after Tom started working at the dealership. “My grandfather was the best teacher ever,” Tom says. “I learned all I know about the car business from him.” One thing Tom learned is that doing business is more about selling a product. “It’s about forming relationships. We work to build those relationships with our customers then build upon that. My grandfather taught me to treat customers the way I’d treat my own mother.”
Tom says he loves doing business in Rankin County. “The people here are wonderful.” What seemed like a remote location over thirty years ago is now in the middle of a booming area that is easily accessible to people from Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties. In addition to the latest models of Buick and GMC vehicles, the dealership also has a large selection of certified pre-owned vehicles and they offer a comprehensive service department.
As a way to show their appreciation for the loyalty of their customers, Tom says the dealership strives to give back to the community whenever possible. “We are active in the area Chambers of Commerce, and we sponsor many charity golf tournaments each year, benefitting such organizations as the American Red Cross and Blair Baton Children’s Hospital.” Tom says he is looking forward to many more years of offering Buick and GMC vehicles to the area. “We strive to keep our customers coming back!”