Coker Goes from Car Sales to Commercial Real Estate
Harvey, Betty Jane, THE JOURNAL RECORD
A career change might be more common when an individual first enters the working world, but Joe R. Coker has proved that it can be done after spending almost 40 years in the automobile industry and then making a switch to real estate.
Coker joined Jerry Hocker and Associates Inc. at 4323 N. Classen Blvd. in January, sold a Resolution Trust Corp. property and currently has four contracts for commercial properties that he anticipates will close promptly.
"I just turned 65 this year, and people keep asking me why at this age would I do this. But I wouldn't be happy not being out in the community and meeting people and seeing people because I just love them," Coker said.
"It takes about six months to really get a feel for it. You build up contacts so you can get referrals. It's all on commission _ no salaries. I have noticed there are a lot of people in and out quickly," he said.
"One man that I admire is Bob Sullivan. He has been with the firm now for 18 months, but he went through his six months and he has built up the referrals. I call him my role model because he has really persevered," Coker said.
In April 1992, Coker reached an agreement with David Hudiburg to sell his dealership, Joe Coker Pontiac-GMC Trucks, on Int. Hwy. 40 near N. Sooner Rd. in Midwest City. Hudiburg began operating the Pontiac dealership May 15, 1992, under a management agreement, and the buyout was officially complete in September, Coker said.
In April 1992, Coker began courses to get his real estate license. By October, he had completed 240 credit hours, earned his real estate license and is now an Oklahoma licensed real estate appraiser and a certified environmental appraiser.
A neighbor gave Coker some contacts in commercial real estate firms, and the first one was Jerry Hocker. Hocker's firm specializes in commercial and industrial real estate services.
"It's not a typical employer-employee relationship. He is a great teacher," Coker said. The firm has five associates and a receptionist who recently completed her real estate licensing course.
When Coker was five years old, his father joined Fred Jones Ford. Coker received two degrees in finance from the University of Oklahoma after his service in the Navy during World War II. He later earned a master's degree in business from Harvard Business School.
Coker had been with Phillips Petroleum Co. in Bartlesville for three years when his father called in 1954 and told Coker he was needed at the dealership, Chick Coker Pontiac in Oklahoma City. Coker totally bought his father out within a few years.
His father's dealership was originally on N. Broadway Ave. downtown but was moved to NW 4th St. and Shartel Ave. in 1936. In the 1960s, Joe Coker was interested in moving the store northwest, but Dockum Pontiac established a store there. Coker then moved his store southeast to Midwest City in 1974.
"I had been around retail all my life. I told my children that if they wanted to come into the business, please don't come to me later in life. I stayed on because of that, but I don't have any regrets. I like retail, and I worked with great people."
Coker grew up in Norman, and he and his wife Merion live there now. They have three sons, one daughter and 12 grandchildren, six of which live in Norman.
"I wondered before if I should get in commercial real estate. I would have done it earlier, but I waited for a son who was in the business, and (then) he decided not to go on with it, so I sold out.
"After 38 years of retail I was tied down. It really is a nice change.
"We are very fortunate in Oklahoma City with the quality of the dealers that are here. Strong association relationships help. The really nice thing is the people I don't know. They recognize the name and they ask me why I'm in real estate, so it's kind of an icebreaker. …