THOMSON - Bobby Culpepper can remember working in downtown Harlem as a youngster, pumping gas and selling tires and bus tickets out of his dad's dealership.
"I grew up working there," he said, adding that he took a break from Culpepper Ford only to attend college in the early 1960s.
Now he's leading the dealership into a new era.
The Columbia County location of Culpepper Ford will close soon, as Culpepper is buying the Freedom Ford location in Thomson. He's moving his operations base - and 23 staffers - westward along Interstate 20.
"I think this is something that is going to work out real well," he said.
Culpepper said several factors prompted his decision to move to McDuffie, including the increased customer base and higher sales numbers at the Thomson locale.
He said he hopes to continue Culpepper's strong service numbers across the county line.
"Our philosophy has always been selling cars is not what it is all about," he said. "It's the service and making them a friend."
When it came down to it, the move was for the Culpepper family's future, he said. His son, Brian, has been working at the dealership for nine years.
"That had to be a key factor," Culpepper said, sitting in his office just off I-20 near the Harlem exit. "In reality, I could have stayed right here the rest of my years."
The dealership has been in Culpepper's family since 1949, when he was 2 years old. It was located in downtown Harlem until 1997, when Culpepper moved his dealership next to I-20.
"Our Harlem location provides direct interstate visibility, but the Thomson location is the next best thing," he said.
The Thomson location is just off Highway 17, less than half a mile north of the interstate.
Culpepper is putting the Columbia County dealership building up for sale and said he is going to be patient during that process.
"Realistically, it may take a year or two before the right person comes along," he said.
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