Stan McNabb had no idea where Arab, Alabama, was when he was offered a job at a car dealership just before finishing college. The town of 8,000, about 1 hour northeast of Birmingham, started McNabb on his career in the auto business. Instead of becoming a veterinarian as originally planned, McNabb packed his bags and headed south in 1970. He was apprehensive but determined to succeed.
“I had to look on a map to see where Arab was,” said McNabb, who grew up in Murfreesboro. "I guess I had no idea what I was getting myself into."
The decision changed his life forever and indirectly led him to Columbia. Trusting his instincts, McNabb found out he loved selling and servicing cars and met his future wife, Jaime, before buying his first dealership in Tullahoma with a partner 10 years later. Last week, the McNabbs closed a deal to buy Lucas Chevrolet Cadillac in Columbia.
“My father farmed as a child,” McNabb said. “But I always loved cars as a kid. I remember playing with Hot Wheels cars as a kid. I never thought I would be in the sales business.”
His family in Murfreesboro predicted he would flame out and come home within six months. “I was determined that was not going to happen,” McNabb said. “It was only about two hours away, and every weekend I would come home, I would bring a vehicle with me. Almost every time, I had it sold to someone [in Murfreesboro].
“I picked up the good things I wanted to keep,” McNabb said, explaining his learning curve. “And I learned the things I did not want to do if I owned a business. My dad always told me, all I had was my name. He told me to make sure I always had a good name. You have to treat people good with sales and service. Service is my thing.”
“They’re going to be running it side by side,” Jamie McNabb said. Trey, 35, started working with his father as a teenager. He changed oil, rotated tires and washed cars, among other duties.
“My dad went to our comptroller in Tullahoma [Terry Jones] one time, saying, ‘A lot of people are getting overtime.’ Terry said, ‘Your son is one of them.’ I just enjoyed being there.” “You enjoyed getting the paycheck,” Stan interjected.
Trent, 32, joined the family business in high school. He started cleaning the shop floor before branching into sales and management. “I always tell people I decided to get into the car business when I figured out I was not good enough to play golf professionally,” Trent said with a wink.
Interestingly, the family has nearly every sports allegiance covered. They all graduated from college — Stan at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro; Jamie and Trey at the University of Alabama; Trey’s wife, Dolly, at Ole Miss; Trent at Vanderbilt, Trent’s wife, Katie, at Auburn; and Ashleigh at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “We’re trying to cover all of the teams,” Dolly deadpanned.
“Dad always told us, ‘I’ll pay for you to go to college. You can stay as long as you want, but I’m only paying for four years',” Trent laughed.
The McNabbs say they enjoy seeing customers leave with smiles, whether it’s because of sales or service. “We want people happy and talking about how well they were treated here,” Stan said. “All of our employees have the ability to fix whatever problems our customers may have.”