Read about the history, culture and commitment to excellence provided by the Dimmitt Automotive Group since 1924.
By BRIAN GOFF
DUNEDIN – In many places in Pinellas County are signs identifying Dimmitt family automobile dealerships. Look beyond the signs however and you will find a family whose history in Pinellas County is as rooted and embedded as any other. In fact the family, going back five generations, has been in the county almost as long as the county itself.
It is difficult to tell the story of the Dimmitt family without including its involvement in the automobile industry. Almost from the moment Larry Dimmitt Sr. arrived in Clearwater in 1924, cars have been part of the family.
Larry Sr. and his wife Hebe arrived in Clearwater from Port St. Joe, where he actually owned a section of railroad. It was common back then to freight supplies down the Atlantic Coast and then send the goods on to New Orleans by railroad. Larry owned part of that railroad.
Before moving to Port St. Joe, Larry lived in Savannah, Ga., and had a Buick distributorship. It wasn’t long after he arrived in Clearwater he got back into the car business. He bought the local Ford Dealership and never looked back.
Richard Dimmitt, 60, and his brother Larry III are the third generation of Dimmitts to continue what their grandfather began.
“We and everyone else called him Potsie,” said Richard. “Back then Clearwater was small, maybe 5,000 people. There wasn’t even a bridge over to the barrier islands. He would stand on the bluff and look over and he thought he was looking at the next West Palm Beach.”
Eventually Larry Sr. began buying land and at one point it was said that next to the county itself, he owned more land in Pinellas than anybody.
Over the years “Potsie” continued to enlarge his automobile business.
“He sold Rio, White, LaSalle and finally got Cadillac and Chevy in the mid-’30s,” said Richard. “He did that when there was nothing east of Clearwater except trees and dirt tracks. Dad tells me downtown Clearwater was two blocks long and two blocks wide.”
Larry Jr., Richard’s father, already involved in the car business, had to go to war. He fought in World War II under General Patton. He met his wife-to-be Betty Jane Roth as he was recovering from a war wound in New York City. They moved back to Florida and went right back into the business.
“My dad used to tell me stories of how he would go door to door trying to convince people to buy cars during the Depression,” said Richard. “Life was a lot slower then. People came for three and four weeks at a time to visit and as the area grew, he grew with it.”
In the meantime Larry Sr. was turning his attention to charitable causes.
“He built gyms for schools, additions to hospitals and helped churches,” said Richard. “Then he retired in the early ’70s.”
Larry Sr. died at the age of 96.
“Potsie was a strong guy,” said Richard of his grandfather. “At 84 he was still painting his own house. They had to get him down off the ladder and convince him to stop.”
Eventually the Caddy and Chevy dealerships were split into two separate businesses. Richard, his older brother Larry III and their sister Eileen were involved in the businesses. Another brother, Ben, wasn’t interested and moved to New York City where he became a photographer.
Their father, Larry Jr., died in 2011 at the age of 97. It is his name that graces the Dimmitt Community Center in his hometown of Belleair.
Richard Dimmitt is semi-retired now.
“I’m slowing down and spending most of my time on boards and helping charities,” he said. His brother Larry III and his sister Eileen are both retired.
Now the mantle is being passed to yet another generation of Dimmitt’s. Larry III’s son Larry IV is running the Dimmitt Chevrolet franchise in Clearwater. Larry III’s daughters Mallory, Elizabeth and Genevieve are not involved in the business.
Richard’s sons Richard Jr. and Peter are running the Dimmitt Cadillac franchises in Clearwater and Pinellas Park.
None of Eileen’s children, Michael, Betty Jane, Andrew or Timothy are involved in the businesses, although Michael has two children Daniel and Abigail, the 5th generation of Dimmitt’s in Pinellas County and the great-great grandchildren of Larry Dimmitt Sr. It is too early to tell if one or both might follow the family tradition of selling cars.
Richard Dimmitt says he and his family are proud to be counted among the pioneering families of Pinellas County, and for good reason.
“Pinellas is a fabulous place to live,” he said. “There are still places where it is quiet, where you can glimpse at the way things used to be. You can still be connected to the big life, yet you can step away from the very intense type of activity. This area offers the perfect blend of life.”
Check out this great article detailing the origins of the Dimmitt Automotive Group from the TBNweekly.com!
Written by Amy Patterson
For decades the Cadillac brand has been famous for its fine, luxury vehicles. So famous in fact that a major recording label, Cadillac Records, was so named because its founder Leonard Chess had a habit of buying all of his musicians (and himself) a Cadillac. Songs paying tribute to the icon have played on our radios for generations, and one of Cadillac’s biggest fans was the King of Rock-n-Roll himself, Mr. Elvis Presley. Elvis owned many Cadillac cars during his reign—the first being his world-renowned pink and white 1954 Cadillac—and was known for giving them as gifts. Throughout the years, many things have changed, but one thing that remains the same is Cadillac’s signature luxury style, partnered with dependable, quality vehicles and superb service. If Elvis were around today, I imagine he’d still drive a Cadillac. I picture him in the new Cadillac CTS Coupe, custom-finished in gold, of course.
Providing our community with 88 years of Cadillac sales and service is the Dimmitt family of Clearwater, Florida. The Dimmitt legacy began in Clearwater in 1924 when Larry Dimmitt, Sr. purchased a Ford dealership where he handled sales of Ford and Lincoln until 1933 when he began handling sales and servicing of Cadillac, Chevrolet, and LaSalle. In 1952, Larry Dimmitt, Jr. took over from his father, and then in 1972, Lawrence Dimmitt III followed family tradition and took over for Dimmitt, Jr. It was in 1976 that Richard Roth Dimmitt (currently the sole owner) became co-owner with his brother Lawrence and dealer/operator of the Cadillac dealership. In 1986, Dimmitt Cadillac relocated from its original location in downtown Clearwater on Ft. Harrison to its current location on US Hwy 19 in Countryside, now a local landmark, referred to as ‘The Mansion.’ Richard Dimmitt became the sole owner of Dimmitt Automotive Group in 1993. Today, Dimmitt Automotive Group specializes in sales and service of Aston Martin, Bentley, Cadillac, Land Rover, McLaren and Rolls-Royce. The family legacy continues as Mr. Dimmitt prepares his sons, Peter and Richard, Jr., to become the fourth generation of owners in the Dimmitt family.
Family is an important part of Dimmitt Automotive Group and extends beyond the boundaries of blood. The entire staff of Dimmitt work as a family. I experienced this first-hand when I was given a tour of the property by Dimmitt’s Community Relations Director, Kelli Krebes. In every area, from the sales floor to the service department, everyone I met was proud to tell me how they came to Dimmitt. Many of Dimmitt’s employees have worked there for decades.
“It is a pleasure to work for a family committed to our community,” says Kelli. “One family, partnered with a professional staff dedicated to ensure your complete satisfaction can make a difference.”
The service department plays a huge part in the Dimmitt Automotive legacy and specializes in providing quality service to any model and make of vehicle. The dealership used to handle sales of Hummer, and will continue to specialize in servicing Hummer vehicles. Dimmitt’s service department is legendary for excellence in service, and just like the sales department, caters to customers’ needs, whether it is relaxing in one of the lounge areas, having a quiet place to catch up on emails, or getting chauffeured to a destination. And, there are always fresh baked goods, delicious coffee and refreshments available.
When mishaps happen and your car needs paint and body work, you are in good hands at Dimmitt’s state of the art Collision Center. Adhering to the “Cadillac Standard” in customer service and quality work, Dimmitt Collision Center repairs all makes and models, accepting all insurances.
The Dimmitt family takes pride in our community, and has continuously contributed to local organizations throughout the years. Dimmitt Automotive Group has sponsored many charities and non-profits, as well as private dimmitschools. Local organizations that have Dimmitt’s ongoing support include: Children’s Cancer Center, All Children’s Hospital, Mike Alstott Family Foundation, Morton Plant Mease Foundation, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, The Run Neese Foundation, United Way of Tampa Bay, PARC, UPARC, Children’s Home Society of Tampa Bay, Gulf Coast Division, American Cancer Society – Pinellas County Unit, Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Salvation Army, Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, Red Cross Disaster Relief, Toys for Tots, The Haven of RCS, East Lake Youth Sports Complex, Clearwater Little League, and East Lake Little League.
Dimmitt is proud to announce their recent partnering with Ruth Eckerd Hall. The pair is very excited about future endeavors together. Richard Dimmitt commented, “The partnership between Dimmitt and Ruth Eckerd Hall is a great way to help drive the economy while supporting the arts and arts education in our community!”
The Ruth Eckerd Hall-Dimmitt Automotive Group partnership is offering new vehicle buyers a complimentary six-month Dress Circle membership. As a Dress Circle member, you are entitled to an array of privileges such as ticket purchasing before the general public, private concierges phone line service for ticket purchasing, access to the exclusive Hoffman Dress Circle lounge with complimentary champagne, wine and soft drinks. Dress Circle members enjoy exclusive VIP Experiences such as Meet and Greets, backstage tours and other up-close and personal experiences at Ruth Eckerd Hall. My sister and I were able to experience the Dress Circle firsthand, as Kelli was kind enough to invite us to attend the Kenny G. concert. We had VIP parking, free beverages and hors d’oeuvres, and a fantastic show!
If you have ever dreamed of owning a luxury automobile, you owe yourself the experience of a visit to Dimmitt Automotive Group in Clearwater & St. Petersburg, where every customer is treated like gold. And, if you are in need of a quality, hand-selected pre-owned vehicle, Dimmitt has many choice vehicles available. Take the time to tour the properties, meet some of the staff and check out the History Wall in the Mansion that displays photos of the Dimmitt family’s climb to excellence in the automotive industry. You also can find this history lesson at www.dimmitt.com, under “About Us” on the company information page.
DIMMITT AUTOMOTIVE GROUP VIRTUAL TOUR
When you visit Dimmitt, they treat you like you are coming into their home. The friendly, warm environment is enjoyable – a place where everyone feels welcome. So what are you waiting for? If you love luxury, innovative engineering and timeless class, your next vehicle may be right down the road at Dimmitt.
Visit Dimmitt at either of our two convienient locations to take your favorite new play toy for a test drive. Do you see yourself maneuvering thoroughfares in the Cadillac of Crossovers, the ultra-fine, sporty Cadillac SRX? Maybe it’s the new fit-for-a-king Rolls-Royce.
Dimmitt Automotive Group is comprised of two locations located at 25191 U.S. Hwy. 19 N in Clearwater and 3333 Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg. Sales hours are Mon. – Fri., 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Sat. from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Service department hours are Mon. – Fri., 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sat., 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. The Collision Center in Clearwater is open Mon. – Fri., 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and on Sat., 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Visit online at http://www.dimmitt.com or call (727) 797-7070 for additional information.