ELIZABETHTON — For decades, people driving east of Johnson City were met at the Elizabethton city limits by a major car dealership. Acres of new cars under the Grindstaff banner greeted everyone at 2214 W. Elk Ave.
Steve Grindstaff grew his business from a Chevrolet dealership to a Ford dealership and a Chrysler dealership in this location and expanded to other dealerships in Johnson City.
After decades in the new car business, the Grindstaff name disappeared from its original spot last year.
“Mr. Grindstaff founded his business here in 1985,” said Josh Hartford, who continues to serve as General Sales Manager under the new owners. “After 37 years, he has decided to partially retire.”
While Grindstaff continues to operate some of its dealerships in other locations, Hartford said the original location was sold to ZT Motors of Houston, Texas. In a tribute to the prominent location where it sits, Hartford said the new company is called Happy Valley Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram.
Hartford said ZT Motors is growing and hopes to acquire more dealerships in the Tri-Cities and Southeast. The company hopes to expand to 30 dealerships by next year.
Hartford said the arrival of the new company is good news for customers. He said ZT wants to grow, but he said “they want to do it the right way, taking care of their customers, supporting the community.”
Although there are new owners, Hartford said old customers won’t see much of a change. One of the things that stayed put is Hartford. “ZT kept the staff that were here and they added more staff,” Harford said. “You’ll see a lot of familiar faces here.”
One thing that has changed is inventory. ZT is a big company and Hartford said it is already using its buying power to expand its inventory and bring in a significant number of used cars.
According to a recent online press release, ZT Motors was founded in 2015. In addition to locations in Texas, the company operates car dealerships in Florida and Georgia for BMW, Chevrolet, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.
ZT Motors is part of ZT Corporate, which was established in 1997 and has grown into a full-service wealth management firm that provides specialist financial solutions to its clients through traditional, alternative and private equity investments. ZT Corporate offers investment opportunities in lower middle market companies, primarily focusing on the healthcare sector. Success in the healthcare portfolio has given ZT Corporate the strength to diversify its portfolio into new industries, including real estate, sports and entertainment, restaurant franchises and, most recently, the automotive retail industry. .