Struggling to make something out of limited resources is not foreign to Mr. Ellis. When he was 10 years old, he and his family moved to the Atlanta Prison Farm property. His father was the foreman of the prison farm and his grandfather was the superintendent. Growing up, Mr. Ellis worked on a farm, had a milk and paper route, did construction, ran a concessions business at Grant Park, and ran a laundry route. By the time he completed West Georgia College and Georgia State University in 1957 with a BBA in general management, he had worked also as a prison guard and foreman, sold insurance, IBM Machines and real estate, and held various other jobs to work his way through college. After returning from serving two years in the U.S. Army, Mr. Ellis held a variety of jobs until he found his place in the automobile business with General Motors in 1960.
In 1970, Jim Ellis and his wife Billie took the biggest financial plunge of their lives to establish their own automobile dealership. They sold all of their assets, used all of their savings, cashed in Billie's retirement fund from over 15 years at Georgia Tech, and borrowed the balance to begin Jim Ellis Volkswagen in 1971. In total, the plunge amounted to $35,000 in assets, and $165,000 in loans.
The Ellis family is a very close-knit one. Jim Ellis is the Chairman of our company and is still active in the major corporate and capital decisions. Billie (Mrs.Jim) Ellis serves as Secretary and Treasurer of the corporations. Their son Jimmy is the President and CEO of the Corporations. Their daughter, Karen Black serves as a Corporate Officer and their daughter Kristi serves as a Corporate Officer. Karen's daughter, Brooke Gatlin serves as the Director of Human Resources. Jimmy's daughter Stacey Hodges serves as Vice President of Audi Atlanta and our corporate Directors. Jimmy's son Wes serves as Vice President of Jim Ellis Hyundai and Jim Ellis Volkswagen Atlanta. Jim's niece's son Chris Roper serves as Office Manager for Mazda Marietta and Volvo of Marietta.
The responsibilities of these family members are clearly divided and many of the family members play an active role in the businesses. We now have three generations working every day in our family business. The fourth generation is coming up with six members ages one to six. They are young, but we are planning for them to have an opportunity to work with us too, when they complete their chosen education.
We are celebrating our 46th year in business in 2017 and plan to be family-owned and operated for the next foreseeable generations of the Ellis family.