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Lou Cohen

Lou Cohen

BMW of Towson
Towson, Maryland

"I believe the most rewarding part of my career is that I was able to build a great business in the community where I grew up. It has not only allowed me to give back to my community, but to now pass this successful company on to a second generation."

“I believe the most rewarding part of my career is that I was able to build a great business in the community where I grew up,” nominee Cohen said. “It has not only allowed me to give back to my community, but to now pass this successful company on to a second generation.”

Cohen is a 1959 graduate of Baltimore City College, a college preparatory high school in Baltimore, Maryland. He then served in the United States Army before opening a used-car lot in Baltimore in 1961 and then a leasing business in 1968. “My father was in the automobile finance and insurance business, so I grew up around that industry going to work with him as a youngster and later began spending time with his clients who were used-car dealers,” he said.

In 1969, Cohen acquired a Chevrolet dealership, his first franchise, and eventually added nine more to his Heritage Auto Group, which he sold in 1997. “I tried my hand at retirement which was good for about a month,” he said.

Due to a year-long non-compete agreement, he waited until 2000 to acquire BMW of Towson, the first dealership in his current Priority 1 Automotive Group. Today, the group oversees nine dealerships in Maryland, representing brands Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Land Rover, MINI and Porsche, as well as three collision centers and a leasing company. His son Marc and daughter Alison work together with him in the family enterprise.

“Now they can be successful and contribute to the same community where we were all born, raised, and reside,” Cohen said. “I have been extremely involved in giving back to my community through my support of many charitable organizations.”

A few of the groups that the Cohens supports include: Ronald McDonald House Charities; Susan G. Komen; Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (Baltimore); R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma (Baltimore); Dyslexia Tutoring Program (Baltimore); JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation); St. Joseph Medical Center/Urology (Towson); Cystic Fibrosis Foundation/Maryland Chapter; and Jemicy School (Owings Mills, Maryland, school for students with dyslexia and related language-based learning differences), The Associated, and GBMW (Greater Baltimore Medical Center).

He is also on the board of trustees for the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and has been recognized by the group for his long-term philanthropic support. “My award from JNF was the most meaningful because of the amazing work that they do in support of Israel and the services that they provide to people in dire need,” Cohen said.

Cohen was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Peter Kitzmiller, president of the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Deborah, have four children.