Jerry Durant's upbringing taught him a lot about running an auto dealership empire. “I was raised in a small town. If people weren’t satisfied, they’d tell the neighbors, and pretty soon you wouldn’t have any business at all. I try to find the best people in the industry (mechanics, service writers, dealers) and give them a good, clean place to come to work. The better the service, the better the customer retention,” Durant says. His operation now spans over 44 acres with seven brands.
At 12 years old, Durant helped his father at their Chevy dealership in Granbury. “I worked in the back washing cars and getting them ready to sell. I also drove the wrecker and would go out on calls to pick up vehicles that needed to be brought back to the dealership for repair.”
Grade school was a challenge for Durant, but he says his mother kept him focused and encouraged him relentlessly to continue trying. “I had a bad dyslexia problem. Of course we didn’t know what it was at the time, but I wasn’t able to read at the level I was supposed to. I didn’t take school seriously because I wasn’t good at it.”
Durant attended the University of North Texas, where he graduated in 1969 with a degree in business administration and was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity. Throughout college he’d go home on weekends and sell cars at the dealership. “When I graduated, I knew I wanted to be a car dealer. In February 1970, the dealer in Weatherford went out of business…The next day I told my dad that I wanted to buy that dealership, and he said, ‘Go ahead.’ So at 23, I negotiated with the man who held the note, and in July they finally called me and told me I was going to be the new dealer in Weatherford.”
“The industry is totally different now. It used to be where we could only rely on newspapers to sell a car. Now we photograph it and put it online immediately, attracting people from all over the U.S. The internet has revolutionized the car business.”
When Durant was 30 years old, his life was turned upside down. “I was on top of the world, and then I got struck with cancer. It was the kind that was supposed to be fatal, and they told me that if it broke into my lungs, they wouldn’t be able to do anything. Well, then it broke into my lungs. I told the doctors that I wasn’t going to take any more of their medicine, and I went home and prayed. My lungs cleared up, and I haven’t had any problems with cancer ever since. That experience taught me that while we are here, we need to do all we can for the people around us.”
Durant and his wife of 50 years, Vickie, are role models for leadership and community service, especially in educational outreach. Durant has served on boards for the Weatherford ISD, Weatherford College and the Project Opportunity Scholarship Foundation at Weatherford High School. Durant donated 60 acres of land to the school, now home to a state-of-the-art high school building.
Durant is a member of the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse and the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce. He is the recipient of the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Citizen Award and James H. Doss Award, given to individuals who have shown exceptional dedication to the community.
When he’s not running his auto group or giving back to the community, Durant spends time on his equine interests. “I’ll tell you what, for a while I didn’t have any down time. When my father passed away in ’95, he was that way too. He never developed a hobby. That’s when I decided to get into cutting and race horses.”
Last year Durant was inducted into the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame for being a member that contributed above and beyond. At his Silverado ranch in Weatherford, he holds monthly cutting horse competitions and a 10-day show every fall called the Brazos Bash.
Durant’s two children, Brian and Diane, live nearby, affording him the chance to spend time with his grandchildren. Brian works alongside his father at the dealership. Of his other employees, Durant says, “Everybody that works with me has been here for a long time, and we all feel like family.”