Don Joseph Toyota in Kent will celebrate 50 years of selling the car brand Thursday.

“We’re going to take this time to look back at where we’ve been, how we got here and where we can go from here,” said Jessica Joseph, the third generation of the family to operate the dealership.

The operation began in 1964 as a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer, said Jessica’s dad, Jeff Joseph, who took over the business from his father, Don, and now has handed over most of the responsibilities to Jessica.

“I’m obviously proud of our third generation in the business. There’s not a lot of businesses of any kind that survive to a third generation. I was very fortunate. It’s nice to know Jessica is following in my footsteps."

It’s no accident that Don Joseph Toyota has remained with Toyota all these years, Jeff said.

“Today, they’re the best quality car in the world,” he said of Toyota, which along with other Japanese automakers faced lingering post-World War II animosity while gaining a foothold in the United States during the energy crisis. “I can still remember taking heat for selling them back in the ’70s."

Jessica said she appreciates being able to focus her attention on a single car maker at a single location.

“We’re not an auto group,” she said. “... I think we are one of the only Toyota dealers that’s not affiliated with another group.”

The internet and technology have changed the way the car sales business works, and Jessica said Don Joseph Toyota is looking to the future with a focus on people, the employees and customers they interact with every day.

“The culture is the most important thing,” she said. “I know it sounds cliché, but time has really proved that if you have happy employees, you’ll have happy customers.”

Jessica said she is particular about hiring individuals who would interact well with customers, which is the key to growing sales when shoppers come in already knowing their prices after exhaustive internet research.

“It’s important to let customers know we’re humans, and good humans at that,” she said. “People want to buy cars from people they know.”

That effort means continuing her father’s history of community involvement, as well as instituting new programs, such as the dealership’s partnership with J and J Driving School.

“It’s helps drive younger buyers to our dealership,” Jessica said.

Rachel Roberts, the dealership’s director of finance, said she believes Don Joseph is the first to offer a driving school, which holds classroom lessons at the dealership and uses Corollas in driving lessons.