On Oct. 6, 1955, a young Jerry Cohen mustered out of the Army and started looking for a career of some kind. It didn’t take long — 3 days, in fact — for Mr. Cohen to find something that interested him, which was a job at Hanley Ford in Washington. The car business fascinated Mr. Cohen, and soon he found himself a part of the industry.
Mr. Cohen was well liked by Hanley Ford management — so much so that he was sent to Ford Motor Company's Owner/Son School in 1958. He excelled in management and sales, eventually staying at Hanley for 19 years and working with a number of others who now own a total of 50 dealerships (Vincent Sheehy and Jack Fitzgerald are two prominent names among them).
Mr. Cohen had a long relationship with the Cherner family. When the long-established Cherner Ford dealership in Shirlington was closed in the early 70s, he was offered the opportunity to replace it with one in his own name. A location on Little River Turnpike in Annandale was chosen, and after some fits and starts in the construction phase, Jerry’s Ford was opened just in time for the 1973 Oil Embargo.
The 1973 OPEC embargo was a bit of a financial disaster for the U.S. auto industry and for individual dealerships, but the newly opened Jerry’s Ford was able to survive. The dealership sold nearly 500 cars in the first 45 days of operation and has never looked back. Mr. Cohen’s only regret is that Leon Cherner (the patriarch of the Cherner family) didn’t live to see the grand opening of Jerry’s Ford.
Much of the dealership’s success and notoriety is due to its very effective radio ad campaign that started in late 1973. “Let the competition beware …” was a song heard on every major radio station back then, and it became nationally famous.
Mr. Cohen went on to own a number of dealerships. He’s sold five of them in the last year or two, maintaining Ford, Lincoln-Mercury, Chevrolet and Suzuki franchises. He feels strongly that the real strength of his businesses has been and continues to be the quality, loyalty and creativity of his employees.
Just ask Chuck Bolton, Allan Whitenberg, Fred Javier, Roy Davis, Carol Gatlin, Ellen Lovell, Alan Neff, Carl Ramsey, Belarmino Reyes, Steve Roberts, Jackie DeSilva, Mark Sullivan, Ludwiga Thompson and Jeff Weatherholtz when you visit Jerry’s Ford. They’ve been there from 20 to more than 34 years, helping to make the customer feel comfortable and welcome.
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