Marathon Men Revisited

The veterans. The godfathers. The cornerstones of the BE 100s

(ECP). “Time Warner is a dominant multimedia provider. They have the internal infrastructure that we can use as a launching pad,” Smith says. ECP is now poised to publish in Africa, Europe, and South America and to launch multimedia properties under the Essence brand.

Smith and Lewis are mindful of the eventual transition in management. “We have a group of capable and highly qualified people who are now in place and can run the magazine,” Smith says. “We must continue to remember that our goal is to remain a ‘special friend’ to our readers. We must deliver content that is compelling and relevant to African Americans. Essence has a very, very bright future.”

NATHAN G. CONYERS,
CONYERS RIVERSIDE FORD INC. | Detroit, Michigan
Nathan G. Conyers is approaching his 70th birthday in the driver’s seat. As one of the nation’s first black auto dealers, he presides over Detroit’s Conyers Riverside Ford, which grossed $35.2 million on the 2002 BE AUTO DEALER 100 list — a significant jump from the $7.1 million the franchise grossed on the first Top 100 list.

Now, Conyers is revving up sales through expansion. He recently opened a Jaguar dealership in Novi, Michigan, a state-of-the art franchise a half-hour drive from downtown Detroit. “We expect to do very well with the Jaguar brand,” says Conyers, a lawyer and brother of U.S. Congressman John Conyers Jr. “It took us two years to get the deal done and get this place built, but now we’re ready to go.”

Conyers has traveled a long road since he took over Riverside in downtown Detroit 32 years ago. But he kept the doors opened and thrived through his winning formula:
quality service and a sense of community. Today, the grandfather of 10 says the key to success is family.

Succession is not a problem since three of his five children are involved in the operations of the two dealerships. His eldest son, Steven, 42, who has served as Riverside’s general manager, will eventually run the operation. Another son, Peter, 33, is slated to join the Jaguar dealership. One daughter, Nancy, 45, serves as customer relations manager for the new dealership. Another, Ellen, 36, is an attorney who handles legal affairs for both dealerships.

Conyers expects his children to open more dealerships in the future. He’s satisfied that he accomplished a goal he set for himself more than 30 years ago. “We wanted to be a training ground for blacks to become dealers and we’ve done that. We have helped 36 people go into the business,” he says. “Our reward has been helping other blacks gets into the business.”

EARL G. GRAVES,
EARL G. GRAVES LTD. | New York, New York
It helped spawn a generation of entrepreneurs. It showed a wave of black professionals how to navigate in corporate America. It introduced the value of financial markets to hordes of new investors.

For 32 years, BLACK ENTERPRISE has been the bible for black business. Earl G. Graves Sr., the driving force behind the publication, was a former administrative assistant to the late Sen. Robert

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