By Mandi Cardosi
While the Ramey Automotive Group “does the deal,” that slogan also holds true for James Ramey.
Ramey works out of the Princeton office for the auto dealership.
Ramey Automotive Group has been in existence for 55 years, “providing outstanding customer service and incredible value to customers” that stretches through three states.
But Ramey employees say that slogan is more than just words — it’s a promise.
They know “safe and reliable vehicles are a must for every driver, so Ramey Auto will always ‘Do the Deal’ to get you the vehicle you want at a price you can afford.”
And they do just that with hassle-free shopping, low pricing, simple financing options and one of the area’s largest selection of both new and used cars.
And it comes pretty easily to James Ramey. After 59 years in the car business, one could say Ramey knows his way around a vehicle, but he quickly admits it’s been a constant learning process along the way.
“I’ve been to a lot of automotive schools, dealer institutes, taken all this knowledge and I read all the time,” Ramey said.
He said he has learned the most through his experiences, but also enjoys helping others by teaching them everything he knows.
Ramey has been selling used cars in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee for nearly five decades, and he continues on with his work at 81 years young.
His family includes his wife, Katye Ramey, and children Pam Bowling, Donna Marinus, Jennifer Turley and James C. Ramey Jr., who is deceased.
Originally from Tazewell, Va., Ramey said he prefers the countryside over the city any day. And it might be surprising why.
“After talking to customers and people all day, I enjoy peace and quiet,” he said of his countryside home.
Ramey loves to teach people about cars, too.
From his family members to the young people who work for him, Ramey has attended many automotive schools and dealership institutes where he uses that knowledge to help others.
“I believe in training, training, training,” Ramey added. “I love to mentor young people.”
But Ramey didn’t always have it all together.
“While I was going to Tazewell High School, I worked in a service station. I bought and sold eight cars and thought ‘This is easy money,’” he said.
After learning the ropes through his practice, Ramey was deployed to Korea during high school, but what he had learned before he left would remain with him when he returned.
“I returned from Korea with $1,500 in my pocket and bought three cheap cars and was on my way,” Ramey said.
After that, he attended Southwest Virginia College where he majored in business.
He now owns and operates, along with a large staff that consists of some of his family members, seven dealerships.
“I have seven dealerships stretched from West Virginia to Johnson City, Tennessee,” Ramey added.
As far as working with his family, Ramey’s half brother, Robert Ramey, helps handle operations in Princeton, one of the many locations in the Mountain State. He also has two grandsons who work at the Princeton location.
“I teach them how the car business works,” Ramey said. “I want them to carry on that legacy.”
And leave a legacy he will. Ramey said he gets frustrated when his age sometimes hinders his abilities to work.
“I love everything about the car business, but I dislike getting old,” he said. “It limits my time to do what I love.
“This business is like coaching, you can just mentor (others) and try to make them better.”
Along the way, Ramey has learned a lot about the mechanics of cars, how to handle money and more importantly just being nice to people.
His successful business now has a website, rameycars.com, where the public can look up the new and used cars at each of the Ramey car dealerships.
In the car business, Ramey doesn’t have much time to do anything else. But he says that doesn’t bother him too much because he has lived a pretty full life so far.
“I used to love to play golf, but not much anymore,” Ramey said. “But I love to get out to the ocean and pool and all that — which I still enjoy.”
When Ramey’s free time isn’t all golfing and swimming, he said he likes to ride the trails in Tazewell County where he lives.
“Part of my free time is taking a 4-wheeler on the trails,” he said.
Some of his favorite places to travel with his family include Hawaii and Las Vegas, Ramey said.
“I like to travel and spend time with my family,” he said. “I also enjoy the beach.”
There is much admiration for what Ramey is able to do even in his older years.
He attended Tazewell High School where he made the Hall of Fame and he also spent time as president of the area Rotary Club.
He also received the Paul Harris Fellow award; was honored as a Kentucky Colonel; he’s a 32 Mason and a Shriner; member of the VFW; received the Excel Business Award from the Princeton Mercer County Chamber of Commerce; was Citizen of the Year for Tazewell, Va., and was named Businessman of the Year in Richlands, Va.
When asked if he felt honored to receive the Who’s Who in West Virginia business award from The State Journal, Ramey said “When you get to be 81, I really, really appreciate it.”
However, this car salesman knows how hard he’s worked throughout his life.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “And I’m lucky enough to receive these honors while I’m still around.”
Ramey said the most rewarding thing about his job, hands down, is teaching younger employees the ropes of the automotive industry.
“I had a burning desire to be successful and prove those wrong that thought I couldn’t do it,” Ramey said. “My advice (to others) would be to have that burning desire, faith and confidence in yourself.
“Have a goal, have a plan, and the dedication to stick to it. Keep on keeping on.”