Yam's Choice Plus Autos Inc.

City: Little Rock
Category: Category II (26-75 Employees)
Year: 2001

Jerry May has turned the used-car market on its ear, just as he upended the Little Rock car stereo market two decades ago.

Yam's Choice Plus Autos Inc. was recognized as one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc. magazine in 2001, after reporting a 1,008 percent growth in sales from 1996 to 2000.

Yam's - Yam is May spelled backward - targets customers with imperfect credit histories, a market that's been growing since the economic downturn began.

"Employees of Yam's have tremendous compassion and empathy for customers who are experiencing financial troubles," May said. "Yam's is a used-car dealership that believes that all customers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."

May started in business with a gamble, when his father, a buyer for the old Otasco retail chain, tipped him off to a huge stock of car electronics that the manufacturer had repurchased from a failing chain. He flew to Los Angeles and bought the entire stock, leased a warehouse on Geyer Springs Road and started selling car stereos for half price. A rental business developed alongside the electronics operation, and eventually May sold his part of the business. A stint as a Florida construction contractor lasted several years but ended in bankruptcy, for which May credits his later success.

"I had been very successful and made a lot of money, but I lost it all," he said. "I couldn't go out and get credit. I went into car sales and financing with the desire to treat customers like myself in a way that they haven't been treated anywhere else - with compassion and respect."

In 1993, May started the auto business with a $20,000 family loan and began to repair, refurbish and sell used cars with financing available for most all his customers.

Today, Yam's employs 32 people and boasts growth two to eight times higher than similar competitors, May said.

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