The chief of family-owned Palmetto Ford Lincoln utmost thanks his dad for preparing him to run a dealership, help out in the Charleston area community — and wind up in the running for a countrywide honor.

Graham Eubank, 51, will represent South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association in the 2019 Time Dealer of the Year competition. E. Sims Floyd Jr., executive vice president of the South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association. nominated the company owner and president to seek the magazine's 50th annual award.

His father G. Manly Eubank, who died last year, launched Palmetto Ford in 1969. "My dad set a high standard in our business and had a tremendous work ethic," the junior Eubank said.

He credited his father with laying the groundwork for his success from his early days at Palmetto Ford.

"After college many of my friends were headed out west to 'find themselves' and try and figure out their next step in the real world," he remembered. "When I suggested that scenario to my dad, he laughed and said, 'I’ll see you at the dealership this Monday. Be ready to start selling.'"

According to Graham Eubank, “We carry on his legacy every day, and we always want to do right by him and treat our employees and customers with the utmost respect.”

The dealer award, described as among the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted trophies, honors successful car dealers who bring a concerted call to community service.

Eubank will join 51 dealer nominees nationwide to be recognized at the 102nd yearly National Automobile Dealers Association Show in San Francisco on Jan. 25, 2019. Jorg Stratmann, publisher of Time, and Doug Timmerman, president of auto finance for Ally Financial, announced the honors. Just 51 auto dealers were nominated for the top title from more than 16,000 nationwide.

"One of the most rewarding aspects of my retail automotive career — and where I feel I have made an impact — is being able to offer an opportunity to our 120 employees at Palmetto Ford and providing them with a great place to work and to learn this great business," the Charleston auto dealer said.

Eubank graduated in 1986 from Asheville School in Asheville, North Carolina, and earned a bachelor's degree in business management from Clemson University in 1990. He was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity order when in college. After graduation, he started full-time in the family business, the state auto dealers association said.

He values the training he received at the NADA Academy in 1993. “This gave me a great foundation for how each one of the departments in a car dealership operates and works with the other departments,” Eubank said. "From washing cars as a lot attendant to now dealer, I have held every position in our dealership," he said.

“I think our main focus has always been to create a culture that distinguishes Palmetto Ford as a great place to work," Eubank said, "but we are also committed to our many philanthropic endeavors in the Charleston community.”

The dealership president and owner has involved himself in a host of volunteer efforts, including:

  • Charleston-based Star Gospel Mission, a group that's served the homeless and needy such as through transitional housing for men since 1904. Eubank, who sits on the board, said the mission "offers a second chance, a new lease on life, a fresh beginning — in a wonderful, safe, clean environment. It’s very rewarding to see these men get back on their feet."
  • Disabilities Board of Charleston County. Eubank provides work at Palmetto Ford for people in its programs. "We have participated in this important initiative for 20 years and find it very worthwhile," he said.
  • Leadership Charleston, an organization that cultivates local leaders for tomorrow.
  • Rotary Club of Charleston and involvement through its Paul Harris Fellow.
  • Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic on Johns Island.
  • South Carolina Governor's Cup Billfishing Series.
  • The Boy Scouts of America.

He has also enjoyed coaching youth sports. Eubank and his wife, Becky, have two children, Terrill, 21; and Gray, 19.

"For 50 years, Palmetto Ford has been a mainstay and symbol of trust in our community," he said. "Hundreds of people have come through our dealership as employees — many have worked here for more than 25 years. It is very rewarding that we have been able to make an impact in their lives,” Eubank said.

Executives of state and metro dealer associations around the country nominate the dealers. Time and Ally Financial, in cooperation with NADA, sponsor the award. A finalist from each of the four NADA regions will be named by a panel of faculty members from the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan, which will then choose the national Dealer of the Year. Three finalists will earn an extra $5,000 for their favorite charities, and the winner will receive another $10,000 to donate.

Ally, meanwhile, will highlight dealer nominees and their community efforts, contributing $1,000 to each nominee's charity of choice. They also will be singled out on AllyDealerHeroes.com, which cites philanthropic contributions and achievements of Time Dealer of the Year nominees.

"It’s an incredible honor to recognize these dealers for their business accomplishments and their unwavering commitment to 'Do It Right' by helping others in their communities,” Timmerman said. "They are extraordinary auto leaders who care and go the extra mile to give of themselves to make their communities stronger."

Contact the South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association at 803-252-0205.

For more information and photos, go to www.postandcourier.com/automotive.

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.