By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
MaShonda Ayers, a well-educated and hard-working Athens woman found herself in the position of being a single mother, and she needed a car. She went to Car-Mart of Athens as a customer, and became one of their best word-of-mouth salespeople because of the way they treated her, the quality of the car, and the “above-and-beyond/extra-mile” service she was given. Her educational background includes a degree in nursing, business administration, as well as one in computer networking; in fact, she was part of the team that developed the Razor Phone for Assurion. She also had the satisfying experience of working from home for HP, where she built an award-winning team. MaShonda was offered an impressive position with AT&T, but when the general manager and one of the vice presidents of Car-Mart told her she’d be a great asset to their company, she was intrigued. She knew what it was like to be in need of a good car, and her heart wanted to pay it forward to others.
MaShonda and her family have Athens roots and she used to spend her summers here as a kid. They moved here from Indianapolis in 1991, and she graduated from Athens High School. She married, had two kids, went to college, got three degrees and more than one great career, and then everything went in the opposite direction. “Those were tough times, and God got me through,” she said.
Although MaShonda has never been in the “buy-here-pay-here” car business, she is thrilled with her job, which she started on April 15, 2015. She has had a blast opening up the new location, which is in the building that for many years housed our local Sears store on Hwy 72. “I had a long talk with my family, and a long talk with God,” she said, and felt like one day the Lord just said to her, “Take it, you’ll be OK.” One of the things she likes about the Car-Mart corporate family is that they pray before meetings as well as meals, and she is free to let her light shine. There had been a problem at the previous store in Athens, due to some poor quality cars having been sold, and MaShonda has had to do some damage control. But, doing the right thing the right way for the right people at the right time has paid off, and business is now booming. “I am pleased to be part of the change,” she said.
By way of history, Car-Mart started in Arkansas in 1981 and has grown to more than 150 locations nationwide. They have an interest rate of 16%, the lowest in the business. Below is a description of their mission, their vision, and their values:
We strive to earn the repeat business of our customers by providing quality vehicles, affordable payment terms, and excellent service.
To be the most respected Buy-Here-Pay-Here organization in the country.
Integrity, Respect, Compassion and Excellence
That market niche has proven to be quite profitable here in North Alabama, and in 2018, Forbes Magazine chose Car-Mart as the best employer to work for in the used car industry. MaShonda told me about a number of services they provide, including a payment-protection plan; an extended service contract which includes the engine, drive train, and transmission; and more. Because she knows what it is like to be a single woman who needs guidance when it comes to the purchase and maintenance of an automobile, MaShonda has a special heart for women who come to her store. She tells them, “Take care of the product, and the product will take care of you.”
When I heard MaShonda introduce herself at a recent Chamber of Commerce Coffee, what impressed me was that the first thing she talked about was not cars, but being involved in the community; and after talking and laughing with her, I believe her.
Car-Mart is open six days a week, and is closed on Sundays. Car-Mart of Athens is going to have its grand opening on Friday, June 8, at the new location at 823 Hwy 72 West in Athens, from 10 a.m. -6 p.m. There will be a cook-out, door prizes, a prize wheel, and lots of family-friendly fun. At 5:30 p.m., there will be an important drawing; so mark your calendars for a special day. See you then!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner