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The Whitten Brothers are a well-known name around Richmond, and rightfully so. The three living generations of the Whitten men are the name and face of the four Whitten dealerships located around town that have been servicing families in the Richmond area for over 95 years. The Whitten Brothers are more than just another dealership; they have been a part of and contributed to Richmond through its ups and downs since the 1920s. This local establishment is now in its fourth generation and four locations, with no plan on stopping anytime soon.
The Whitten Brothers consist of the four Whitten men in succession: Harrison Whitten Sr., Jimmy Whitten, Bobby Whitten, and Harrison Whitten, in respective order from first to the fourth generation. The company gained more insight, stayed ahead of the game and refreshed its structure every time a new Whitten generation was handed off the ownership of the Whitten Brothers. This, if not anything else, has helped them stay more relevant and survive through hard economic times through the 95+ years the Whitten Brothers have been around.
Current operations of the four Whitten Brothers locations are managed and operated by Harrison Whitten and Zack Cochran. In order to provide the highest level of service to every customer at every location, Harrison Whitten (the fourth generation Whitten) focuses on enhancing the sales sector while Zack specializes in quality service, parts, and collision repair sectors. Although Zack and Harrison have their own specialties, both make themselves available at any given time for the sake of satisfied customers at every location.
The Whitten Brothers began establishing itself as a part of Richmond’s community back in 1920s. The Whitten’s first location opened in the midst of Richmond’s development into some of its major industries, which at the time were the entertainment and tobacco industries. Reputable, classic Richmond venues such as the Altria Theater and the Byrd Theater were built around this time later in the 20’s, but not before the Whittens made their mark on the city.
Harrison Whitten Sr.’s father started it all by opening a small tire shop on March 8, 1920 on 1500 W. Broad St. This is still a commonly visited and well-known area, where the Firestone, GameStop and Starbucks are now located.
Harrison Whitten Sr.’s father did not expect this once small car accessories shop to evolve into what it currently is today, but it always started with a big picture in mind. Despite many industries blooming around the same time in Richmond, Whitten sustained a profitable business through their focus on the quality of customer service. By 1937, the successful service station saw the opportunity to expand and ultimately ended up becoming a franchised dealership.
The Whitten Brothers continuously saw growth in car sales and customer retention, both of which were major contributors to its further expansion in the 1960s. The Whittens opened their second dealership location on Midlothian Turnpike around 40 years after the first Whitten location had been opened. This location is still owned and operated by Whitten, as the Mazda Whitten of Richmond on Midlothian Turnpike
The Whitten Brothers grew at an increasingly faster pace, with its third location opened in 1990 also on Midlothian Turnpike, across the street from the Johnston Willis Hospital.
Whitten’s growth did not stop there, despite the rise and falls of many local companies in Richmond throughout the years. The most recent Whitten location was opened in March of 2008 in Ashland, expanding its reach of the Richmond-Petersburg area even further. The Whitten Brothers took ahold of a major opportunity and decided to acquire Pence Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram in March of 2008, which is now the Whitten Brothers of Ashland, Inc.
This final expansion proved to be one of the most trying times for the Whitten Brothers, as it occurred right in the midst of the recession that hit many families, and especially car dealerships hard. During this time, oil prices had skyrocketed and many SUV and truck heavy dealerships were desperately struggling to sell off any of their inventory while the Whitten Brothers were stocking up right at the downturn of 2008.
Although the Whitten Brothers were concerned about the timing of this decision and the risk with the economy at hand, they knew it had to be done to keep growing. Despite the hardship and failure of many car dealerships during this time, the Whitten Brothers of Ashland truly depended on their team members and loyal customers to pull them through. This is why the Whitten Brothers are so adamant on putting their customers first in every area of service.
The Whitten Brothers ultimately made it through the rough patch of 2008, when many businesses failed in the community. Richmond has been through many ups and downs over the years and the Whitten Brothers acknowledge that they wouldn’t have been able to last through it all without the support from their customers.