Duke stands for excellence in sales service

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 23, 2003

Editor’s Note: The Suffolk News-Herald’s Horizons project is completed today. Among the features is the best things about the city. Barbara Lee Allen, staff writer, previews that section with a story about a family business.

By Barbara Lee Allen

Suffolk News-Herald

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The Duke Automotive family stands out among General Motors dealers, with proof of that fact in the many awards for excellence in service after the sale and for sales as well. With a reputation of that type, the company strives to maintain that standing through their relationship with customers and the community.

Ely Duke III, grandson of Ray Duke, is a third generation member of the sales team at Duke Auto. Like many of the congenial and knowledgeable employees at Duke, Ely began working at the company as a 13-year old.

&uot;I began washing and detailing cars,&uot; he added. &uot;I, like many of our staff, have worked in just about every department in the company. I learned first hand about customer satisfaction both before and after the sale.&uot;

Duke Auto was opened Jan. 1, 1969 when Ray Duke purchased the business from the widow of the previous owner of an auto dealership. Since those early beginnings, the owners and staff have been committed to customer satisfaction and excellence in service.

Lydia Duke serves as president of Duke Auto, having moved into the business full-time after the death of her husband, the late R. Ely Duke Jr. She had been involved in the company from the time she married Duke, but at his death was named vice president and co-owner.

Since stepping in to fill her husband’s place, Lydia has been just as committed to pleasing the clientele of Duke as he was. She’s also just as committed to community service. In fact, Ely Duke established the &uot;Athena Award&uot; in Suffolk, a program that provides honor to those women who are accomplished in their personal and professional lives and to serving the community.

The Athena Award is sponsored by General Motors of Detroit, and even though her husband was gone, Lydia opted to continue a tradition to which Ely Duke had been committed. He believed women should hold a place of honor, and proof of that came when he was named &uot;Peanut Fest Chairman&uot; and chose a woman to serve as co-chair.

Community service is typical of services available at Duke Auto, and the entire team is committed to their customers’ satisfaction. Not only do they do all possible to assist the customer in making their purchase, but also they follow up with service after the sale.

Overseeing the service department is Fred Whitmore. He’s been with the company for more than 20 years.

Jerry Butler is another dedicated employee who began working with the Duke family when he was a teenager. He is now a sales consultant.

Betty Weaver, in the accounting department, has been a fixture at the company, and Ronald Cargill, the detail department manager, has worked with the company all his life.

In fact, he’s the one who taught Ely Duke III exactly how to detail a vehicle.

The Duke employees enjoy a good relationship with their employers. It’s obvious by their attitude when meeting them; they are generally a satisfied group of people.

&uot;We are not only committed to customer satisfaction, but also employee satisfaction as well,&uot; said Ely Duke. &uot;If the employees are satisfied, they are going to see to it that the customers are satisfied. We do our best to make sure that every employee is made to feel a part of our family.&uot;

Duke Auto is a General Motors family of vehicles and features all the best in that automotive line. They often run sales and work diligently to put customers into the right car, and handle financing right in their own offices.

The hours of operation on Monday through Friday, are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Saturdays, hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Of course, if a vehicle needs service, there is a drop-box for keys next to the front door of the service department. Schedule an appointment, take the car by after hours and drop your keys into the box. The service department will call when your car is ready.

To schedule an appointment, or for more information, call 539-8777.