Plant City Courier
Plant City's Stingray Chevrolet buys Bartow Chevy
PLANT CITY - Mayor Mike Sparkman and his family sold Bartow Chevrolet to the owners of Plant City's Stingray Chevrolet last week. Sparkman wouldn't say how much he received for the dealership at 1475 W. Main St. His family has owned Bartow Chevrolet for nearly four years. Sparkman said he is getting out of the car business and hopes to soon sell another Chevy dealership he owns in Zephyrhills. "Timing is everything in business, and it was a rough time to get into the car business," he said. "It was especially hard for two small dealerships."Steve Hurley, dealer-owner of Stingray, agreed that times are challenging, but he sees a great opportunity to expand. His son, Matthew, is running the new location, renamed Stingray Chevrolet Bartow. "I'm excited to get into the business in Bartow and grow it," said Matthew, who was previously a sales manager and Corvette sales specialist in Plant City. "I see a lot of opportunity there." The Stingray Chevys have another partner, Tom Durant, who owns 10 dealerships, including the flagship Classic Chevrolet in the Dallas area. Sparkman, his son Chris, who is chief operating officer of Sparkman Chevrolet LLC, and the Hurleys were on hand Thursday, as the deal closed for the Bartow location. Steve Hurley said he got to know Mike Sparkman through mutual charitable work and admired his work ethic and his dealership's reputation for customer service. "The reason this is happening is because of Mike. He is very customer-centric," he said. Stingray Chevrolet, which opened in 2008 at Park Road and Interstate 4, is the top Corvette dealership in Florida. Trucks are big sellers in Bartow. Matthew Hurley said he hopes among other things to boost car sales including Corvettes in Bartow. After it's renovated, the Bartow dealership will look like a smaller version of the Stingray store in Plant City. Sparkman Chevrolet LLC is a privately held company owned by Mike Sparkman, his sons, Tom and Chris, and daughter, Aimee Sparkman Solomon. The family bought Buddy Foster Chevrolet, which they renamed Sparkman Chevrolet, last year. The Sparkman family was known for operating Sparky's Food Stores, which were founded in the early 1970s and had 45 convenience stores in Pasco, Hillsborough, Polk, Hernando, Sumter and Lake counties. That chain was purchased by Texaco in January 1988. The Sparkmans started another Sparky's Food Stores chain in 1991 and operated it until October 2006, when the family sold its 26 stores to Circle K.
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