Friendship Company History
The Friendship Family of Dealerships started December 6, 1993 when Friendship Ford of Bristol officially opened its doors in Bristol, Tennessee. The previous dealership was closed in early 1991 after being in business for approximately 20 years. After the closing, Ford Motor Company controlled the franchise and was extremely cautious on finding a replacement dealer for Bristol. Mitch Walters spent approximately one and a half years pursuing the opportunity to become the Ford dealer in Bristol. Ford Motor Company finally awarded the franchise to Mitch and Friendship Ford of Bristol was born! In the spring of 2019 Friendship Ford of Bristol moved to an all new state of the art 41,000 square foot new Ford dealership located on West State Street near Interstate I-81.
Along with a long time friend, Steve Stefanovich, Mitch purchased the Honda dealership in Boone, North Carolina in late 1999. The dealership was renamed High Country Honda of Boone and opened for business in January 2000. Mitch acquired 100% ownership from Steve in late 2007 and currently operates the Honda dealership in Boone under the name Friendship Honda of Boone.
In May of 2003, Mitch started pursuing the possibility of acquiring the Hyundai franchise in Johnson City. This transaction was completed in August 2003 and Friendship Hyundai of Bristol was formed as the exclusive Hyundai dealer for the Tri Cities.
In November of 2005, Mitch was awarded an additional Hyundai franchise in the Tri-Cities. Friendship Hyundai of Johnson City opened for business in January 2006, located in Johnson City, Tennessee, giving Friendship representation in both Bristol and Johnson City.
In June of 2007, Mitch was able to acquire the Volvo franchise and Friendship Volvo of Bristol joined Friendship Ford and Friendship Hyundai on the Volunteer Parkway in Bristol.
In November of 2008, Mitch along with partner Tom Hall (Vice President / General Manager) purchased the Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram on West State Street in Bristol, Tennessee and Friendship Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Bristol became part of The Friendship Family of Dealerships. Mitch purchased Tom Hall’s interest in January 2017.
In June of 2012, Quick Lane Tire and Service Center was opened in Bristol, Tennessee as a subsidiary of Friendship Ford of Bristol.
In October 2012, January 2013 and July 2013, FriendshipCars.com locations were added to the dealership family, selling quality pre-owned vehicles in Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City, Tennessee. An additional FriendshipCars.com location was added in August of 2014 on the Volunteer Parkway in Bristol.
In June 2014, Mitch purchased the Nissan franchise in Forest City, North Carolina along with Roy Mullins (Vice President / General Manager). Friendship Nissan of Forest City became part of The Friendship Family.
A new Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram location was awarded to Friendship in Forest City, NC and Friendship opened Friendship Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Forest City in October 2014. Roy Mullins is the operating partner with The Mitch Walters Family in the new Forest City location.
Friendship entered the motorsports business in June 2015 by opening Friendship Motorsports in Bristol, Virginia. The franchises at the new location include Indian Motorcycles, Slingshot, and Polaris All Terrain Off Road Vehicles. Mick Marshall is the Vice President / General Manager and Operating Partner in Friendship’s first business in Virginia. Friendship made its second venture into the motorsports business by opening Indian Motorcycle of Savannah in February 2016. Bob Millsap is the Vice President / General Manager and Operating Partner in Friendship’s first business in Georgia.
Friendship purchased King Ford of Lenoir in January 2019 and rebranded this location as Friendship Ford of Lenoir. This acquisition brings the total number of Friendship Franchises to 24 with 18 locations in 7 cities. Friendship is well underway to becoming the Regional Leader in Automotive Sales and Service in both Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Friendship Family of Dealerships has been recognized as beAUTOMOTIVE NEWS TOP 100 DEALERSHIPS TO WORK FOR since 2011 and was recently named as the #1 Best Dealership To Work For in theion. Friendship has developed a world class team over the years and will continue to grow because of efforts of Team Friendship! Friendship has two locations among 10 dealerships that have earned the Best Dealership honor for seven consecutive years.
Mitch has been active in the automobile business virtually all of his life. His father Robert Walters and grandfather Joseph Walters were the Chevrolet dealers in Hebron, Ohio, a small town in South Central Ohio. After working several years at Walters Chevrolet in most every department and graduating from college in May of 1976, Mitch moved to Bristol, Tennessee to further his experience in the automotive industry. Mitch started in sales at the local Chevrolet – Cadillac dealership and worked his way up to Vice President / General Manager and partner of the local Honda · Mazda · Nissan · and Suzuki dealerships. In 2007, Mitch sold his interest and focused entirely on building the Friendship brand. Both sons, Brandon Walters and Dustin Walters, are also shareholders in The Friendship Family of Dealerships.
Mitch and his wife Danea have two children, Brandon and Dustin, and six grandchildren. Brandon and Dustin are both graduates of Tennessee High School. Brandon is a graduate of University of Tennessee and has his graduate degree from Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He and his wife Kim have three boys (Sam, Mack and Hank) and live in Charlotte where Brandon works in the insurance industry and also leads the administrative functions at Friendship, which includes Insurance, Banking, Human Resources, Profit Sharing / 401K, among other areas. Dustin is a graduate of East Tennessee State University and is married to the former Kelly Cole of Elizabethton. Dustin and Kelly have two daughters (Kate and Emma) and one son (Parke). Dustin is currently the Vice President / Chief Operating Officer and Operating Partner for all The Friendship Family of Dealerships locations.
Both Mitch and Danea have been very active in community and civic affairs in Bristol over the years, and continue to support various charitable organizations personally and through The Friendship Foundation.
The corporate office of Friendship Enterprises, located on West State Street in Bristol Tennessee, opened in May of 2014. This facility will allow Friendship to become even more focused on acquiring new locations, developing positive career paths for members of the Friendship team and exploring new ways to improve the quality of life in our region.
This office complex is also the home to The Friendship Family of Dealerships administration and accounting, The Friendship Foundation and The Friendship Institute of Excellence. The Friendship tradition of Charitable Giving and Leadership Training continue at this location.
GOALS – VISIONS – DREAMS
Mitch Walters hopes to continue to grow the business through having a wonderful team of employees who will provide award winning service to all of our customers. The expansion and renovation of our facilities are very important and will be an ongoing process. As the team members of The Friendship Family of Dealerships grow…so will the number of Friendship locations. Being a leader in the marketplace in every area of business is important, and it is Mitch’s strong desire that each employee of The Friendship Family of Dealerships shares this goal. Focusing on the youth of our region is a top priority for Mitch Walters and the team at Friendship. WE’RE DEALIN!