Damon Lester stands beside a fleet of Nissans inside his dealership at Nissan of Bowie on Jan. 31. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Damon Lester stands beside a fleet of Nissans inside his dealership at Nissan of Bowie on Jan. 31. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Of the three sports in which Dan Banister participated during high school, he eventually focused on basketball and played collegiately at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

But the 6-foot-7 forward’s dreams of playing professionally didn’t happen.

Banister realized he needed to earn a living and chose the automotive industry. He began at the bottom, earning minimum wage, then seven dollars, selling cars in Charlotte.

Nearly 30 years later, Banister owns two Nissan dealerships in Virginia and will celebrate the grand opening of a Ford dealership in Marlow Heights, Maryland on Feb. 11.

“I worked [as a] salesperson, sales manager, finance manager, general sales manager and general manager. I did almost everything you could think of at a car dealership,” said Banister, who resides in Chesapeake, Virginia. “If opportunity comes, you need to be ready to go.”

From left: Dan Banister, his wife Beverly Banister and their children Daniel Duncan Banister Jr. and Jordan Danielle Banister at Banister Ford of Marlow Heights (Courtesy photo)

He acquired the former Sheehy Ford in April from the family who owned the dealership which had been in the same location along Branch Avenue for 52 years.

Some 80 employees work at Banister Ford with about 125 vehicles in stock.

Banister represents one of the only two Blacks who own car dealerships in Prince George’s County. In fact, they’re the only two Blacks with dealerships in the entire state of Maryland. 

Damon Lester, owner of Nissan of Bowie who also acquired his dealership in April, said he tried 16 times to become a car dealer.

“It is very crushing to be told no 16 times,” he said. “It’s very challenging. But it proves I know how to help people become dealers [because] I tried for several years.” 

Unlike Banister, Lester doesn’t have a typical automobile background.

He’s not only a certified public accountant but he has served as the president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, based in Largo, for 20 years.

Out of the 18,000 dealerships nationwide, 1,200 are minority-owned with 266 owned by Blacks. 

More stats: 95% of all minority dealerships represent first-generation owners who compete against fourth- and fifth-generation-owned businesses. In the D.C. area, they include Koons, Darcars and Ourisman.

“When we look at minority dealerships, particularly Black dealers, 99% of us are in our first 30-year mortgage,” Lester said. “We haven’t been able to create multi-generational wealth that would establish our family name and legacy – but we’re on the way.”

To read the rest of the story, check out The Washington Informer’s Feb. 17 edition in our Black History Month section.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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1 Comment

  1. this is wrong lol. you are talking about the bannister dealer in the article, this is supposed to be about Damon lester

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