At the Ford store, Matt Miles, 58, Buster’s son, has a stack of architectural drawings in his office showing the plans for the building and the site. The new building has been part of his vision for the company for a long time.
“I started accumulating this property over 20 years ago, piece by piece,” Matt said.
He built the Ford store in 2003. In 2012, he sold a parcel next to the Ford dealership where a McDonald’s restaurant now stands. And now, a new Chevrolet store is going up.
Buster Miles, now 89, started Miles Motors, a used car dealership, on Noble Street in Anniston in 1947 with his brother Frank. In 1952, Buster bought the Chevrolet dealership in Heflin from Jim McGriff. Still in his 20s, Buster became the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the Southeast, Matt said.
In 1960, Buster Miles Chevrolet moved into the store’s current location on Ross Street.
Buster made Matt responsible for the company’s daily operations in 1988. He is now the owner. In 1992, Matt added a Ford store to the family business.
“I knew it was the best of both worlds – you know, Chevrolet and Ford,” Matt said.
Matt, a graduate of Samford University with a degree in marketing, said he drives both brands today.
Hope Miles, the youngest in the Buster Miles’ family, is now the general manager of the Chevy store. She moved from Heflin to New York City after high school, and returned in 1998 with a degree from Hunter College. She and her husband decided to start a family in her hometown. She started out in sales 15 years ago, after her brother encouraged her to work for him, Hope said. She came up through the ranks and has served as general manager since 2007, Hope said. She’s stayed because she loves it.
“I feel like I’m a part of a bigger vision — of a small-town, working man’s dream,” Hope said.
Three and a half years ago, Miles brought his son, Mim – short for Mimeger – into the company. He’s training Mim to take over someday, Matt said.
Mim, 26, said he joined the company just to try it, but enjoys the work. He oversees online sales for the company. Mim, an Auburn University graduate with a business management degree, buys and sells vehicles on eBay and keeps track of online reviews. Matt said e-commerce is very important to the company.
“Being in Heflin, we have to be the best at the Internet, the most competitive,” Mim said. “We try to sell as many as Oxford and Anniston, and we don’t have the drive-by market. So we have to be competitive online.”
The company registers an estimated $38 million in sales each year and employs 58 people. With the new location, Miles expects to increase sales and staff by more than 20 percent, he said in a letter to the Heflin City Council. He attended a meeting in August, asking for fees to be waived on the building permit for the project. The fees would total about $4,300 for the $2 million construction project. The council members approved his request.
Councilman Shannon Roberts, who bought his Chevrolet truck at Buster Miles in 2009, said the company is important to the community, not only for sales tax revenue, but also for recognition. People outside Heflin recognize the company’s name, he said.
“They’re almost a signature business for our town, I think,” Roberts said.
The body and collision center on Almon Street will continue to operate after the new Chevrolet store opens, Matt said. Plans for the old dealership on the site still have to be finalized, he added.
“We’re looking at several options,” he said.
The new store will have 12,000 square feet, smaller than the 20,000-square-foot Ford dealership because the Ford store houses joint offices for the two dealerships, Matt said. The Chevy store will have 200 parking spaces – the Ford store has 230 – allowing the two stores to display more than 400 new and used cars, he said.
Matt chose to stay in Heflin because he believes the location on Interstate 20 will bring in more customers. The interstate is where the growth is going to be and Heflin is the community he wants to be in, Matt said.
“It has a great location, accessibility and a great community to support growth,” Matt said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.