Even through a mask, David Harrington beamed with pride Friday celebrating the grand opening of a Black-owned dealership in Prince George’s County.
Banister Ford of Marlow Heights represents two dealerships owned by Black men not only in the county but also located in the state of Maryland.
“To have this dealership is another indication of the value we have in Prince George’s County for businesses of color,” said Harrington, president and CEO of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.
“We celebrate this as another means of creating generational wealth. To celebrate this during Black History Month is even more celebratory. It’s tremendous,” he said.
Harrington joined at least six dozen people who attended a one-hour ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Ford dealership owned by Dan Banister, who acquired the former Sheehy Ford in April from the family which owned the dealership seen along Branch Avenue for 52 years.
Banister, joined by his wife, Beverly, and their two children, received valuable assistance while seeking to obtain the dealership in Prince George’s.
He said Dr. Mike Freeman, pastor of Spirit of Faith Christian Center based in Temple Hills, offered not only spiritual guidance but also facilitated connections with people in Prince George’s.
After several conversations, Banister, who owns two Nissan dealerships in Virginia and resides in Chesapeake, Virginia, said he and Freeman became business partners.
“I just know that it was God that put this dealership in my path,” Banister said. “This dealership used to be one of the top-performing dealerships in the nation but in recent years, it hasn’t. It’s been underperforming and underrepresented and has not done well, in my opinion, for the community.”
Banister worked with one of the church’s groups, No Lack Nation, to “help bless families with cars at no cost.”
For the more than 80 employees at the dealership, he told them it would be closed on Sundays.
Besides working during the coronavirus pandemic, he said working in the auto industry accrues a high divorce rate because of the working hours.
“We want to make sure we have enough time to spend with our families,” he said. “What we’re going to do is make sure we have such a good product, a good process and make the customers happy that they’re going to come when we’re open. I want you guys to get your rest and enjoy being with your families.”
The couple has been married for 25 years and they have two children, Daniel Banister, Jr., 21, who attends Hampton University where he’s on the basketball team and daughter Jordan, a freshman at Regent University in Virginia Beach and a member of the volleyball team.
“They trust in the Lord no matter what,” Jordan Banister said about her parents’ spiritual beliefs. “This has been really a blessing to all of us. We are just ready to help the community.”
The other Black-owned dealership in the county, Nissan of Bowie, located along Route 301, has been owned by Damon Lester since April.
Lester, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers [NAMAD] based in Largo, said in an interview last month out of the 1,200 minority-owned dealerships nationwide, about 266 have Black owners. He constantly offers advice to NAMAD members.
“What I have urged the members to do is do your own due diligence. You can’t rely on someone telling you how your store is,” said Lester, who’s also a certified public accountant. “Know your market and know the people in your store. The [auto] industry is competitive.”
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said two Black-owned dealerships in the county accentuates how the majority-Black jurisdiction represents as “the economic engine in this region.”
“We are always happy to see businesses like Banister Ford that bolster, grow and support the local economy,” she said.