Cars run in Kalesha Ruth’s family. Her dad, Jesse Goode, was always working on cars, as was her late husband, Antonio, who died last year.
When a friend approached her in March about buying some used cars to start her own dealership, Ruth didn’t look back. “I was thinking about how my husband would have wanted me to start a business of my own,” she says. “It was a great opportunity.”
With that, T.A.N.K. Auto Sales was born. The used car dealership, which specializes in low down payments, opened the week of Oct. 19 in Candler; a ribbon cutting is planned for Saturday, Oct. 24. Customers can opt into a “buy here, pay here” program, allowing them to pay weekly installments directly to Ruth, regardless of their credit score.
Ruth, 40, was born and raised in Asheville, but moved to Charlotte 20 years ago. As she planned to launch the new business, Ruth wanted to return to the mountains: She knows the city, likes the people and wants to bring some much-needed diversity to the area’s business scene, she says.
To Ruth’s knowledge, T.A.N.K. is the first Western North Carolina used car dealership owned by a Black woman. Even though she describes herself as a “chill person,” she says she’s both eager and scared to be an industry trailblazer.
The pandemic has certainly presented challenges for the first-time business owner — Ruth planned out logistics in March, just as small businesses were closing their doors en masse. But with many industries gutted by COVID-19, she believes her model is perfect for customers who may not have the money or credit to shop at traditional car lots.
Ultimately, Ruth hopes to open a second store in Charlotte, once she’s learned the ins and outs from her Asheville venture. “I’m excited to be successful and to teach my children that they can be entrepreneurs, too,” she says.
This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at email@example.com.