There’s a lot to be said about history. It gives you something to look back on, and something to look forward to. The Dimmitt family history is a rich one, built on vision, perseverance, and most of all, legacy.
From small beginnings, we’ve built generations of loyal customers and employees throughout the central gulf coast that have helped us get where we are today. The late Larry Dimmitt, Sr. started it all in Savannah, Georgia in the 1900’s when he joined the automobile business selling and servicing the Peerless car. As part of the “Klondike Gold Rush” before the turn of the century, he was able to become the Buick distributor in the Georgia area, supplying 16 dealers while also being associated with the Liberty car and the White truck. After settling in Clearwater in 1924, he purchased a Ford dealership. After handling Ford and Lincoln vehicles until 1933, he took over the sales and servicing of Chevrolet, Cadillac and LaSalle. The rest … is history.
As Clearwater expanded, the Dimmitt organization also grew. In 1952, Larry Dimmitt, Jr. took over the operations from his father. An additional dealership was added for Cadillac in 1965, while Chevrolet sales prospered at the original location. Keeping with tradition, Richard Roth Dimmitt purchased the Cadillac franchise from his father, entering the 3rd generation of dealerships.
The family acquired a Toyota dealership in 1985. Originally located in Inverness, the county seat of Citrus County, Florida, the dealership relocated to an all new facility in Homosassa a few years later along with the addition of a Cadillac franchise. Village Cadillac Toyota is currently the largest volume dealer in Citrus County. In 1986, the original Cadillac dealership was relocated to its current site in Countryside. The Range Rover (now Land Rover) brand joined the dealership in 1987 as the exclusive Florida West Coast franchise, and one of only 25 charter Land Rover retailers nationwide.
Luxury and elegance are synonymous with the Dimmitt name. In 1997, Rolls-Royce/Bentley were added to the portfolio. August 2000 brought the addition of Lotus Motor Cars, and Saab became a part of the Dimmitt Collection in 2006. A McLaren dealership was added in 2010, and Aston Martin in 2011. 2017 brought new additions to the organization. An Audi dealership was added in Wesley Chapel with state of the art innovation and architecture. Realizing the importance of being able to offer top-notch services on every scale, the company added a newly built, state-of-the-art collision center in 2018. Jaguar will join the Clearwater store in late 2018.
Legacy and history are embroiled into the Dimmitt name, and Richard Dimmitt has proudly represented the family with an area network of dealerships spanning from Crystal River in the north, to St. Petersburg in the south. He has won numerous “Master Dealer” awards for his locations, in addition to other accolades and awards. As one of the few original Clearwater families, Mr. Dimmitt works with the local community in all his efforts.
Holding fast to tradition runs in the family. Richard’s two sons are now continuing the 4th generation legacy to ensure the Dimmitt name carries on, and the company continues to make a tremendous difference.
The History of Dimmitt Automotive Group
After moving to Clearwater from Georgia in 1924, Mr. Lawrence Dimmitt Sr. purchased the Ford dealership, then located at the corner of Drew Street and Garden Avenue. He traveled to different areas of the county, offering both fresh fruit and Ford vehicles for sale by the pound. Here, Mr. Dimmitt (designated by the arrow) poses with his staff for a photograph in the 1920’s.
The infant days of the dealership on Ft. Harrison saw working conditions somewhat austere compared to today’s high-tech facilities. Here, the dealership’s ‘technicians’ take a quick break in this 1920’s Service Department photo. The building was such that pigeons roamed and nested freely, and the roof leaked substantially every time it rained.
In the early days of Clearwater, there were very few miles of paved road, thus inspiring the “‘scuse our dust” moto on the Ford’s wheel cover in this 1920’s photo. Mr. Dimmitt, Sr. hoped Clearwater could be the next Palm Beach…so much so, he eventually became a subsequent owner of the first house on the north end of the beach.
In 1931 the Ford and Lincoln dealership was moved to 603 South Ft. Harrison, and in 1933 Mr. Dimmitt, Sr. took over sales and servicing of Cadillacs, LaSalles and Chevrolets. Lawrence Dimmitt, Jr. took over from his father in 1952. Mr. Dimmitt, Jr. (left) is pictured with his parts truck in front of the Ft. Harrison location during the mid 1950’s.
At one point, Larry Dimmitt, Inc. provided a number of unique services tailored to seasonal customers, including long-term rentals and warehouse vehicle storage. This photo, probably taken around 1940, shows the original building on Ft. Harrison and the new car lot, as well as the billboard and a print ad explaining our innovative services to seasonal visitors.
Larry Dimmitt, Jr. (second generation owner) took over the business from his father in 1952. When this picture was taken around 1960, we had several satellite used car lots throughout Pinellas County. In addition to the Cadillac and Chevrolet franchises, Mr. Dimmitt also owned several rental car companies which helped supply the satellite lots with inventory.
In 1960, as now, one of the highlights of the showroom was a hand painted mural. The impressive showroom was a significant landmark along Ft. Harrison for more than five decades.
When this photo was taken about 1962, the dealership had just expanded to give Cadillac and Chevrolet their own showrooms. The large building in the background on the right is the Ft. Harrison Hotel, built in 1926. Still a prominent landmark in Clearwater’s skyline, the hotel, like Dimmitt Cadillac, has weathered many physical and economical challenges of the 20th century.
Flashy posters adorned the windows of the original Cadillac/Chevrolet showroom on Ft. Harrison. Even into the early 1960’s, the dealership actively marketed its rental car program.
Though they still retained some vestige of their aero-styled, daring design of ’59, when this photo was taken in 1965 Cadillacs had become more streamlined and conservative.
During the late 60’s and early 70’s, Larry Dimmitt, Jr.’s brother-in-law, “Uncle George” Sanders, managed the Cadillac franchise when it was moved for a few years to a temporary location downtown on Cleveland Street. The Chevrolet store eventually moved onto Cleveland Street, and Cadillac expanded on Ft. Harrison to two showrooms and a pre-owned lot.
During the early 70’s, the leadership helm passed to Larry Dimmitt III. While the Cadillac dealership was still in its temporary location on Cleveland Street, it started a revolutionary (for its time) program of quick oil changes. It was at this point in Clearwater history that commerce was beginning its move away from the heart of downtown.
Work began here on the Mansion in 1984 and the dealership moved in during 1986. The building was patterned after a library in Georgia, after Mr. Richard Dimmitt (current and third generation owner) and Doreen Dimmitt traveled the South in search of the ideal design to capture the essence of southern hospitality.
The “Mansion” as it stands today.
The Dimmitt family, left to right: Richard Dimmitt, Peter Dimmitt, Richard Dimmitt, Jr., and Doreen Dimmitt.