by Laurie Fisher, Associate Publisher, Prescott LIVING
Born in Germany to a military family, Jamaal McCoy learned early about the value of discipline, goal-setting and adapting to constantly changing circumstances as the family followed his father’s career around the U.S. and the world.
He’s parlayed those lessons into an automotive sales career steering dealerships in Las Vegas and Prescott through economic highs and lows with award-winning results and is now expanding his vision into Prescott’s restaurant and fitness sectors. He’s the face of Findlay Toyota Prescott and general manager of Findlay Auto Group Prescott, which also includes GMC Buick, Subaru and Hyundai stores.
As a board member and past chairman of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, McCoy has supported local businesses and given to the community through volunteering with the Arizona Community Foundation, Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott Center for The Arts and many more nonprofits, as well as developing his skills as a motivational speaker.
His wife Rhona’s love of cooking and baking, and their shared desire to create more jobs and better futures for their neighbors, has in the last two years turned them into a formidable team on the dining scene, with four restaurants now open under the Krave Restaurants brand.
Their teenage daughter Naya has been pitching in as well.
A lifelong sports addict, who played professional arena football out of college, McCoy’s interests have brought him full circle to opening a gym, Prescott Fit Body Bootcamp, to share even more of his talent and passion to the Greater Prescott community.
Prescott LIVING: You often call yourself an Army brat. What role did growing up around the country and world play in you becoming the person of business you are today?
Jamaal McCoy: The first thing is the structure that being around the military provides, and that my dad imparted on us. But it was always from care and love and wanting to see us accomplish our goals.
I think the next thing is moving every two, three years, you learn to make friends really, really quickly. And you learn to become a people person and understand that there’s differences in so many different people and how to adjust to different people. That’s something that I had to adapt to very quickly.
And seeing different parts of the country and different parts of the world, you’re exposed to so many different things. And every different region has its own flavor. And I think that’s one of the things I like about what I’m currently doing. I’m bringing different things that were part of my childhood and combining them as one product.
Prescott LIVING: Did you ever consider going into the military?
Jamaal McCoy: I did. I went to high school in Colorado Springs where the Air Force Academy is. I got recruited by the Air Force Academy. I got recruited by West Point. So I considered both service academies, but ultimately decided I wanted to play football professionally after college.
And that road was more attainable, not going to the service academies, at least that was my thought. So after I played football, I actually played a couple years in the arena league after college. I also went and I took flying lessons because my dad was a helicopter pilot.
My dream as a kid was either to play NFL or fly jets. I had all these model jets hanging from my ceiling, which was cool. I took flying lessons thinking that maybe I could join the military at that point. So then I applied to the Air Force, and I applied with the Navy to be a pilot in the military.
But when it came down to it, because of my size, I was too big to fly jets, so I decided to get into business. Never did get to fly a jet.
Prescott LIVING: Where did you go to school, to college?
Jamaal McCoy: I went to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado, and played arena football for a few years after graduating. My first stop was Bismarck, North Dakota. That was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, was in Bismarck, North Dakota. And I remember when my agent called me and he’s like, “You’re going to Bismarck.” I said: “No, I’m not.”
I looked it up. I said, “Negative 10 degrees? No thank you.” He said, “No, you’re going to Bismarck.” And I had a blast there. Then I went to the Detroit Fury. And my final stop was in Augusta, Georgia.
Prescott LIVING: And how did you meet your wife Rhona?
Jamaal McCoy: We met at a Volkswagen dealership in Las Vegas.
Prescott LIVING: So was she in the business too?
Jamaal McCoy: Yeah, she is a former car girl. When we met, she was in the finance department. I was in the sales department. And we became friends first, obviously. And then we just developed a relationship and started dating in 2004.
Prescott LIVING: Oh, that’s good. And how long after did you get married?
Jamaal McCoy: The next year. And our daughter Naya is 15.
Prescott LIVING: I had no idea she was your daughter when I first met her. I always thought wow, she’s so pretty and outgoing. When I found out I’m like, “Well, of course she is.”
Jamaal McCoy: Yes, she’s amazing! She does choir, and she is also involved in theater.
Prescott LIVING: So how and when did you enter the automotive industry?
Jamaal McCoy: I entered the business in late 2000. I just got done playing football, was looking for my next career. Being in Vegas, I bounced around a lot of different jobs and industries trying to find something that fit my degree in management and marketing, which didn’t happen.
I worked as a bar back. I worked in restaurants, I worked in the gym, delivered phone books. I did telemarketing. I worked at Rent A Center, renting out furniture and appliances. Then I saw an ad for a sales job and it said, “Drive a Tahoe,” and I replied to the ad, and as they say, the rest is history.
Prescott LIVING: What did you do to advance within Findlay Auto Group, moving up from salesman to general manager and partner? When you started, what was your kind of transition to where you are now?
Jamaal McCoy: What levels did I go through? So I started in sales. I came to the Findlay Group after working at another group for a little over a year. My sales manager there came to Findlay, said, “We’re going to open up this Volkswagen store. I think you’ll have an opportunity to be in management someday, but you got to start in sales.”
So I started selling cars. I sold cars there for three or four months, then they promoted me to finance. I was finance manager for about a year, then they moved me to sales manager. Did that for a little less than a year. Then they promoted me to finance director. So then I oversaw the whole finance department where my wife was working.
And then from finance director is when they asked me to become the general sales manager at Findlay Volkswagen and then Findlay Chevrolet. After that, they asked me to become the general manager for Findlay Chevrolet.
In 2016, they asked me to help Findlay Chevy Buick GMC in Bullhead City. So I was running Findlay Chevrolet in Vegas. I’d go into Bullhead City two or three times a week and turn that store around, and they made me partner at that point.
And then in 2017 is when the Findlay Group decided they wanted to consider buying the stores here from Tim’s Auto Group. And that’s when they asked me if I could come out here and oversee the stores in Prescott.
Prescott LIVING: So when did they become Findlay from Tim’s?
Jamaal McCoy: May 10, 2017.
Prescott LIVING: What was your vision in the beginning when you started in sales?
Jamaal McCoy: Well, when I first started, it really was just to find a job that aligned with what I thought my skills were. I’ve always been a car guy, grew up around cars with my dad and my uncles and all that. And I enjoyed the opportunity to be with people.
So initially when I got into it, I didn’t’ know what I was going to do. But the more that I was around the business, I think within three months, I told myself I wanted to be a dealer. That was my vision. And so in 2004 I went to what we call dealer school, National Automotive Dealers Academy in Washington, D.C. It’s a yearlong program where you learn to become a car dealer. I was president of the class.
So at that point, I was pretty set that, “Hey, this is a great career. You get to help people. And every day is different.” And that’s when I decided to pursue this path.
Prescott LIVING: What other business ventures were you involved in? You were in the dealerships in Vegas and Bullhead City. I’m curious, were you involved in any restaurant business before here?
Jamaal McCoy: Not as far as ownership, no. I’ve worked and managed them before but never in ownership.
Prescott LIVING: How did you decide to move your family to Prescott? Obviously, the job got you thinking about it …
Jamaal McCoy: I came here four weekends when Findlay was talking about acquiring it, just to get a feel of Prescott and see if it was somewhere I wanted to live. I just went downtown, people watched, walked in and out of the stores and just kind of got a vibe for the community, not knowing what to expect.
Coming from Las Vegas, it was different, but I enjoyed my weekends here. I think after the second weekend I invited my wife and daughter down. My wife already knew about Prescott because she lived in Camp Verde for a little while as a teenager.
Really, with raising a daughter in Vegas, I kind of weighed the pros and cons. And I thought this would be an opportunity, maybe, to slow down.
Prescott LIVING: How’d that work out for you?
Jamaal McCoy: Well we obviously didn’t do that but we have been able to experience some things that we wouldn’t do in Vegas; outdoors, hiking, driving our side-by-side, just really getting involved in things outside of a building.
It was a tough transition at first for my wife and I, but my daughter, she was 9 and fell in love with Prescott almost right away. I wasn’t expecting that.
Prescott LIVING: Did you have any hesitation when you were offered the job here?
Jamaal McCoy: Absolutely. I was running one of our highest volume dealership in the group. I had just built a team. We were dealer of the year six years in a row for Chevrolet. So I was very comfortable where I was. And we were improving the store in Bullhead City.
Anytime you start over again, it takes some time to build it up. So I was very hesitant. And we had just bought a new house, literally had just put the backyard in when the Findlays asked me to come up here. But the more I came to Prescott, the more I thought it would be a great opportunity for the family. We were going to do something different. And I like challenges.
Prescott LIVING: So, here’s a different topic. When did you become active in the Prescott Chamber?
Jamaal McCoy: Immediately. The first person I met outside of the dealership was the Chamber President and CEO Sherry Heiney. And that was two days after Findlay bought Tim’s. She met me here in my office, and we developed a friendship that day and have been friends ever since.
Prescott LIVING: Which other local organizations are you involved with?
Jamaal McCoy: Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott Center for the Arts, Arizona Community Foundation, Pacific Southwest Better Business Bureau, Mount Zion Tabernacle are some of the ones I’m involved with.
Prescott LIVING: What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment as the general manager of Findlay Toyota Prescott?
Jamaal McCoy: Honestly, I think my biggest accomplishment is that the majority of our business comes from Prescott, and we don’t see a lot of residents from Prescott buying outside of our market, which wasn’t the case when I got here.
Prescott LIVING: That’s a huge accomplishment. Everyone’s moving here, and we want our money to stay here in Prescott, so that’s great. Here’s another shift in topic — When and why did you become a motivational speaker?
Jamaal McCoy: Oh, that’s a tough one. The first time I spoke was in Las Vegas, and it wasn’t intentional. I’m comfortable talking to people who work with me. Speaking outside the office, at first, I was a little bit intimidated.
But I think what encouraged me to continue doing it and sharing my message was the response I got back from the kids I initially spoke to, and their parents. And that has taught me that we all have a voice and we have to use it for good. Because you never know who needs to hear that message at that time. I started out by talking to teens.
My first speaking engagement was at an underprivileged school in a rough part of Vegas. The way I saw the kid’s engagement change throughout the time I spent with them was inspiring and rewarding. Something clicked at that point and I realized the difference that can be made by giving someone hope that their circumstance doesn’t have to define them and what they can accomplish in life.
Prescott LIVING: I would think that it could be a better crowd, or it could be a rougher crowd, depending on the teens. What kinds of events do you appear at currently?
Jamaal McCoy: I’ve spoken at automotive conferences and seminars and a few businesses have asked me to come speak to their employees directly. Obviously the Chamber stuff, I do that. I’ve gotten a lot of emails or calls from businesses asking me to come speak to their groups, so that’s more of what I do, at least once a month. I’ve recently had the honor of speaking to the Prescott Area Young Professionals which was awesome. I also spend time at the Yavapai County Juvenile Detention Center which is very important to me. The message is different depending on the audience. It can range from business, to leadership, to setting and achieving goals.
Prescott LIVING: So let’s get into all of your restaurants. It looks like you and Rhona bought Nana’s Café, then called Café 10, in August of 2021, and now you have a total of four. Is this something you’ve been planning on for a while? Has it been part of your vision?
Jamaal McCoy: No, it wasn’t originally. It just came up one day. I think the conversation when Rhona and I started was: How can we get more involved in the community, more than what we’re currently doing? We started looking at business opportunities. When Cafe 10 became available, we talked about it. She loves cooking, she loves baking. It was close, where I could walk to it and help manage it.
Once we got into it, we got around the people and loved the customers, loved the interaction with the customers and engaging with them. That was a huge benefit.
But the bigger benefit for us was we saw the difference we were making in our staff’s lives and wondered how could we multiply that and give people opportunities who didn’t think they had opportunities, through some of the things they were dealing with.
So we just said, “Well, how can we do more of this?”
Prescott LIVING: What drew you to each of these places now owned by Krave Restaurant Group? And will you be adding any others?
Jamaal McCoy: For every single one of them,
I was a customer. With Cafe 10,
I probably went over there two, three, four times a week, loved the food and just thought we could keep what was great and expand on it.
Barbudos Mexican Grill, I’d always heard about this Mexican place in town that used to be very popular and had the best Mexican food. So then when I tried it, I thought it was great, and then it became available.
With Vibes Juice Bar, we had some of their acai bowls at the dealership, and I thought it was great, and it was vegan and sugar-free. And while I was in the process of building the gym, that one became available. And so Rhona and I talked about how perfect that was for the health and fitness community.
But the barbecue place, I’ve actually been working on for almost three years now. In between the first time working on it, they sold it to someone else, and then we bought it from that person, and Lucy Dee’s is now State 48 Hometown BBQ.
As for the future, we are constantly thinking of new concepts that we feel would be a benefit to our community.
Prescott LIVING: And you also own Fit Body Boot Camp, which opened in September. Obviously, growing up in the Army, with all the structure and this overall health and lifestyle, you’ve always been active and healthy and in the gym kind of mode. What made you decide to buy a gym?
Jamaal McCoy: I played sports my whole life, so I’ve always been a gym rat. And when I came here, I didn’t have the same type of access to things I was used to in Vegas.
Owning a gym is another thing that was always kind of cool to me; having my own space. But the catalyst behind that was I had a few guys that have worked for me in the past that always talked about doing something that could inspire people and change lives”. A gym was something that has always been on my mind and combined with their passion, I figured it could be a great opportunity.
Prescott LIVING: OK, this is a big, broad question to end with. What do you envision moving forward?
Jamaal McCoy: I’ll always be involved in automotive to some extent. What I love to do is to coach and help others. For me, the perfect role would be truly overseeing and helping general managers become successful, helping them coach and develop their team while continuing to grow the Krave brands.
Rhona and I are now envisioning having multiple locations in multiple cities of the brands that are here. And really, what we would love to see is people have an opportunity to go run their own restaurant and possibly be able to have ownership in these restaurants.