Chambers: We just couldn't make it

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The operator of a longtime Albany car dealership seized by state revenue officials Thursday said that a prolonged recession combined with local saturation in the used-car market will force his doors to close after more than five decades of operation.

A sullen yet optimistic Billy Chambers spoke with The Herald Friday, a day after his lot on West Oglethorpe Boulevard was padlocked and sealed by revenue agents who placed liens on the property that total more than a half-million dollars.

Chambers said that he knew almost three years ago that the company was in trouble but held out thinking that the economy would perk up and that the demand for used cars would return enough for the business to emerge from what some have said is the worst recession since the Great Depression.

"It really was the perfect storm," Chambers said. "We held out and held out and held out, hoping things would get better, but they never did and it looks like this is the end for us. We just couldn't make it."

Chambers said it looks like there is no alternative at this point but to file bankruptcy -- a move that could come as soon as next week.

The Herald reported Thursday that documents obtained from the Dougherty County Clerk of Courts' office showed that the Georgia Department of Revenue had filed liens totaling $352,000 against the business.

In compliance with a request filed through the Georgia Open Records Law, DOR officials provided records of additional liens Friday that bring the total of alleged back sales taxes owed to more than $601,000.

Chambers was complimentary of the DOR, saying its agents had worked with the company "better than any other state agency we've worked with," but that the company had just reached a point where the agency had to step in.

The company is now working with Doco Federal Credit Union to handle its outstanding accounts. Chambers said previous customers who still owe on their loans through Chambers Motors will likely be contacted in the coming days and advised about their status, but that anyone with questions on their account should contact the credit union for more information.

Bill Chambers first opened the car lot in 1955. Over the years, Billy Chambers says that the company developed "the most loyal customer base in South Georgia."

But with more used car companies moving into the area, Chambers said that the market got more and more saturated, and that when jobs started leaving so did some of his most loyal customers.

And Friday, as Chambers and bank officials combed through the company's books to reconcile accounts and prepare for the end, Chambers uttered a depressing prediction.

"With things like they are, and this economy, I think we'll see more businesses closing," he said.