Peter Boulware, an NFL veteran turned franchised dealer, wants his two Toyota stores to reach top potential before expanding his holdings. The retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker will consider opportunities if they arise but sees no reason to rush.

“I’m open to anything, but I’d say I’m really more in the mindset of, ‘I just want to be excellent with what I have right now,’ ” Boulware told Automotive News.

Boulware in April 2021 bought the former Fred Anderson Toyota of Columbia, in West Columbia, S.C., a store he renamed Peter Boulware Toyota of Columbia. That deal came nearly two decades after he — while still on the gridiron — became a part owner in the former Legacy Toyota in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2003. In 2020, Boulware became majority owner of the Florida store, renaming it Peter Boulware Toyota.

The 2021 purchase represented a route home for the Columbia, S.C., native, a connection that played a crucial role in his decision to buy the store when Toyota talked with him about the opportunity, according to Robert Costa, director of market representation and business management for Southeast Toyota Distributors, which covers five Southeast states including South Carolina and Florida.

“Peter’s strong ties to the Columbia, South Carolina, community and his commitment to excellent customer service make him a fantastic representative for Toyota in the region,” Costa told Automotive News via email.

Boulware, 48, said he initially had no intentions of a life in auto retail when he invested into a dealership. “In the off-season, I just wanted to go check on my investment,” Boulware said, adding that during the visits he would ask many questions.

But ultimately he had discovered one of his post-football careers.

Boulware also dabbled in politics, running for a Florida House of Representatives seat, winning the Republican primary in August 2008 before losing a close general election race that November. Boulware also is a former Florida State Board of Education member and, in 2009, he and his wife, Kensy, founded the Community Leadership Academy, a private Christian school in Tallahassee.

Boulware said he’s grateful to have a second store but noted it has brought new challenges.

“The Columbia market is a little different than the Tallahassee market,” Boulware said. “The team in Columbia has a different flavor, a different style. As much as I’d like both to be carbon copies and everything done exactly the same way, as easy as that would make it, you just have to manage both stores a little differently.”

The four-time Pro Bowler said operating stores in different states provides traveling challenges. He said he can only get to South Carolina a few times a month. He said his day-to-day work is in the Tallahassee store, the city he lives in full time and where he attended college.

Boulware studied management information systems at Florida State University, where he had a standout junior season as one of the nation’s top pass rushers. During that season, he recorded a nation-leading, single-season FSU record 19 sacks and was named the 1996 ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

The Baltimore Ravens drafted Boulware with the No. 4 pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. He played for the team through the 2005 season, though a knee injury sidelined him in 2004. His stellar defense contributed to the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXV.

The NFL’s 1997 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Boulware racked up 70 career sacks, good for No. 2 on the Ravens’ all-time list. A favorite hit that Boulware remembers didn’t register as a sack, but he did take former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino to the ground.

“I remember just sitting on the ground, holding his leg, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I’m grabbing onto one of my heroes,’ ” he said. “And I almost had to shake myself out of it and remember, ‘No, no, he’s the competition now.’ ”

He sees parallels between football and automotive retailing beyond competition. He said the great coaches he played for, including Bobby Bowden at FSU and Brian Billick in Baltimore, taught him sportsmanship, how to sacrifice for a common goal, how to win the right way and how to pick yourself up after a loss, he said.

“I was able to learn those [lessons] on the gridiron and I definitely use those in our day-to-day operations,” Boulware said.

Boulware would like to see more dealership owners who look like him. “As a minority, an African-American dealer, there’s not many of us out there,” Boulware said. “I feel like I have a responsibility to try to grow our numbers.”

According to the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, just 1,366 of U.S. dealerships were owned by minorities in 2021. And about 95 percent of those are first-generation owners, according to NAMAD.

Boulware’s Tallahassee dealership participates and helps fund an automotive franchising track within a degree program at Florida State’s Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship. As part of the program, college students intern at Boulware’s dealership.

“We want them interning at our stores and we want them to see how great this industry is, No. 1, but even before that, we want them to know that they can make it in this industry,” Boulware said. 

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