Massey celebrates 80 years of service to community
Randy Kelley, President of Massey Toyota and grandson of the founder, holds his grandson during a staff Christmas party last year. Submitted photo.
In the summer of 1938, the world held its breath as Hitler threatened war in Europe, Disney’s "Snow White" topped the box offices at the theaters and Italy topped Hungary in the World Cup. Closer to home, E.W. Massey opened a car dealership to serve the city of Kinston.
It’s been 80 years, but Massey’s business still lives on at Massey Toyota on U.S. 70. The Massey company has changed a lot over the years. Whereas they used to sell Cadillacs, they now sell Toyotas.
“We partnered with Toyota in 1970; that was two years after they began to break into the Southeastern U.S., and even then, that was the major cities like Miami and Atlanta,“ Randy Kelley, the owner and president of Massey Toyota, said. Kelley is also the grandson of E.W. Massey.
“We started off on King Street in the '30s," Kelley said. "We moved to where the SPCA thrift shop on West Vernon is now in 1981. Then we moved to our current location in 2007. It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years already."
Kelley believes the same foundations his grandfather founded his company on are the reason his company has thrived in the midst of increasing competition from larger chain dealerships.
“His philosophy was to always do the right thing; it built a reputation for us to follow and we have done that as best we can," he said. "We feel that’s how we’ve survived and flourished all these years because we’ve made it a point to serve the customer. We’re not dealing with a major corporation that only cares about the bottom dollar. Any customer can in here and see the general manager if you need something."
Kelley described an encounter with a recent customer in which the young man was having a problem with how his new car was running. Kelley said he rode with the customer and discovered it was a problem with the tires.
"Not every dealership would help someone with tires that were 8,000 miles old," Kelley said. "But we helped him with it and he left happy. And that’s the thing: We can afford to give personalized service to our customers.”
Besides selling cars, Massey Toyota is heavily involved in the community.
“Being in this size community, there is always a need and I know we can help,” Kelley said.
Massey has sponsored local Little League and soccer teams. The organization provides a car for the manager of the Down East Wood Ducks to use for the season. Massey sponsors golf tournaments for the local hospital foundation, the LCC Foundation and the Caswell Center Foundation. Massey is also a major sponsor of the Lenoir County SPCA.
Kelley reflected on how his company relates to the city of Kinston.
“Our business in a large market wouldn’t be as important," he said. "But being a fixture in a community that is as old as Kinston, it’s nice to be part of it and pretty much know everyone. We see people at the store and connect with them. We go to church and our kids go to school in this community.
"We’re a part of it and we’re invested in it.”
With 80 years down, Massey shows no signs of stopping now.
“I’m a third-generation owner and operator," he said. "My son, Ryan Kelley is here; he’s been active in leadership for nine years. I put it on him to get us to 100 years. Chances are I won’t be here, but we’d like to get to that point and then beyond that.”
The Massey company has seen a lot over the years. It's seen hardships, locally and nationally, yet are still playing a strong part in the community.
“I had the pleasure to work with my grandfather for seven years before he passed away," Kelley recalled. "During one low time, he told me ‘If you think this was tough, three years after we started this company, we couldn’t sell cars because GM stopped making them. They were making tanks for the war. We couldn’t sell tires and we couldn’t sell gas.’ He was right.
"We got through that, we can get through anything."