When I arrived in Naples in the summer of 1979, the first place I targeted was the City of Naples tennis courts. What better place to exercise and meet new friends? After getting on a new player’s list, I perused the tennis center’s “wall of fame” to see who was the Who’s Who of tennis. There was one name that stood out – Dick DeVoe.
Eleven years before I came to this paradise, Dick and Barbara DeVoe opened their Cadillac dealership on the spot where it sits today, although it has expanded from the original site at 4100 Tamiami Trail over to Goodlette-Frank Road via Solana Road. Its location is now smack dab in the heart of Naples, but in 1968, the location was considered “out in the boonies.” Who in the world would ever drive that far to buy a car?
Naples has obviously changed since then. It was a time when no one locked their doors and the Naples phone book was a mere 15 pages with 4-digit phone numbers. The Tamiami Trail (US 41 or 9th Street) was just two lanes with nothing north of Naples High School – including drain pipes. When Naples had one of its many rain storms, DeVoe’s parking lot was flooded, it looked like a virtual river of glass. Mr. DeVoe’s nephew, who visited them shortly after the move to Naples, asked, “Uncle Dick, are you sure you made the right move?” “Not really,” was his uncle’s reply.
As luck would have it, it was the right move indeed because on opening day, March 15, 1968, Dick DeVoe Buick-Cadillac-Opal delivered eight new Cadillac’s to many of Naples legacy leaders: Don Wynn, owner of Sunshine Ace Hardware and Wynn’s Markets; Jim Russell, owner of Kepp’s Men Shop; Larry Tetzlaff,
creator of what is now the Naples Zoo; and pioneering real estate developers, Wes Downing and Earl Fry.
GOOD POLICIES LIVE ON
While the dealership has grown to 160 team members, in the beginning it was one-man show with Mr. DeVoe being the new and used car manager as well as salesman while his wife, Barbara and his three sons, were the prep department. Scrupulous honesty was their policy so much in fact that when Mrs. DeVoe used a stamp from the dealership, she had to pay for it. And yes, they both paid dealer prices for their cars. Today, Mr. DeVoe is retired and two of his three sons (one is retired now) are carrying forth the family tradition-the tradition of service to customers and the tradition of service to community.
The DeVoe Family still reflects the quiet elegance of Naples in the 1960s. Their devoted service to community, through the DeVoe Scholarship Fund, has given over $1 million dollars to help some 350+ students with higher education and are the longest standing benefactor of NCH. They also support Youth Haven, the YMCA, the Sheriff ’s Ranch, Junior Achievement, numerous Little Leagues and the Peter Thomas History Fund. Naples High School is also a recipient of their good will. Sons Mark and Don played every sport in high school and excelled in track. (Good training from their Dad who had them running car detail, I imagine.) Mark held the 220-yard dash records for decades and Don became an accomplished triathlete.
When Hurricane Wilma destroyed the football scoreboard, the DeVoe family took the lead for its underwriting.
When I first saw Mr. DeVoe’s name at Cambier Park in 1979, it took me until this summer to realize just how good of a tennis player he really was. I had the pleasure of visiting he and his lovely wife at their home and after seeing his “trophy room” (office), it was apparent why is he had been ranked #1 Senior Tennis Player in the United States. No, I never played with him but wish I had, but we did share stories and laughs about players we both knew that I can’t and won’t repeat.
Congratulation to DeVoe Cadillac and their families on their 50th Anniversary – 50 years of stellar service in business – loving service to community and memories of those killer serves on the court.