Lester Raines Mazda in South Charleston is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, originally owned and operated Mazda dealerships in the United States.
That was the consensus opinion on Oct. 28, when officials from Mazda’s North American Operations stopped by the dealership at 5035 MacCorkle Ave., S.W., to present dealership owner Lester Raines with a plaque recognizing 45 years of service.
It was 1974 when Junior Raines, Lester’s father, started the Mazda dealership.
From the beginning, Lester worked with his dad to make the dealership a success.
Lester said he’s honored that the dealership is being recognized for its longevity.
“I’m happy — it’s important to me. I want 50 (years),” he said.
Raines said it was his understanding that at one time there was a Mazda dealership in California that had more years of continuous service under one owner, but that the owner had since sold the dealership.
Lester Raines has been operating the family business since December 1983, after the passing of his father. His father and uncle, Dale Raines, started out in the automobile business in 1953, when they opened a used car lot in Charleston.
“It was downtown, across from Sears. That’s where he started before he moved up here (to South Charleston),” he said.
Raines has fond memories of working with his dad. Those experiences began at a very young age.
“I worked for my dad when I was 5. My first job was killing flies in the trailer of the used car lot,” Raines said with a laugh. “Somebody would open the door and flies would come in. I got a dollar a fly. When the place was empty, I’d open the door and let more in.”
Raines was 19 was his father opened the Mazda dealership, and he’s been a vital part of the operation since then.
“He gave me a (Mazda) RX-7 to drive, so I had to work for my car. I washed cars and ran parts.”
Working summers for his father gave Raines an appreciation for his father’s work ethic as well as an appreciation for the car business.
“It sort of committed me to be here with him all the time, and I wanted to be here,” he said.
Raines said the dealership’s 45-year run of success with Mazda is due, in part, to providing excellent customer service and to being honest.
“I think it’s because I’m local, I’m available and people like purchasing vehicles and listening to me because I’m honest with them. Plus, it’s the product.”
He’s watched as Mazda vehicles have evolved and improved over the years.
Mazda quality is “state-of-the-art,” Raines said. “The quality is there.”
Corbin Jones, Mazda North American Operations district service manager, and Tom Regan Jr., Mazda zone manager, presented Raines with a plaque honoring the dealership’s 45 years of service.
“The staff has been great to work with, and I know that Lester is really passionate about the Mazda brand,” Jones said.
Although Raines is proudly carrying on his father’s and uncle’s legacy in the car business, he also managed to achieve another level of success.
After graduating from West Virginia University with an undergraduate degree, he went on to graduate from the WVU School of Dentistry, followed by two years of hospital residency.
Raines is a hands-on owner who prides himself on providing excellent customer service. The Raines family has been committed to serving their customers for more than 59 years.
For more information about Lester Raines Mazda, call 304-223-9366, or visit www.lesterrainesmazda.com.