Dan Davis, the former chairman of Winn-Dixie, transforms his automotive collection into a museum.
Dan Davis is opening his nationally recognized car collection – The Brumos Collection – to the public.
The Brumos Collection museum opened Jan. 20 at 5159 San Pablo Road S., near the entrance to the private Pablo Creek Reserve community in south Jacksonville.
The 35,000-square-foot, two-story building could have been an austere warehouse if it was meant as a place just to park cars.
Rather, Davis had other uses in mind, said Brandon Starks, executive director of The Brumos Collection.
“I saw an opportunity to create a viable business around the collection and it then evolved into what we have today,” Davis said in an interview by email.
Davis, 74, is the former chairman of the Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. grocery chain, which was founded by his father, J.E. Davis, uncles and grandfather.
Dan Davis retired as chairman and from the Winn-Dixie board in 2004 after working for the company for more than 35 years, including as principal executive officer from 1982-99.
Winn-Dixie, a public company, restructured under bankruptcy laws in 2005-06 and was sold to privately held Southeastern Grocers in 2012.
The supermarket scion began collecting cars in the mid-1970s, but he became an avid collector when he purchased the Brumos Porsche dealership in 1990, he said.
From 1990 through 2016, Davis was majority owner of the Brumos automotive dealerships with minority owner Bob Snodgrass. Brumos sold Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.
Davis was part of the Brumos racing team that won several endurance races.
The cars were stored in a warehouse behind Brumos Mercedes-Benz on Atlantic Boulevard and displayed in the dealership’s showrooms.
Now they have their own space.
The Brumos Collection is dedicated to racing and the automotive innovations that came from the track and became elements of the family car.
The project evolved from what was first designed as storage for the car collection.
When the Brumos dealerships were sold to Fields Auto Group in 2016, a permanent place was needed.
The Brumos Collection museum was built on property Davis owned on the northeast portion of the Davis family’s Dee-Dot Ranch. The museum is not affiliated with the Pablo Creek Reserve community.
During planning, the idea evolved for a museum open to the public. That’s why a more tourist-friendly spot along Interstate 95 wasn’t chosen, Starks said.
C.F. Knight Inc. was hired as the builder because of its reputation for high-end residential and industrial designs, Starks said.
The multimillion-dollar project is a museum for car buffs and novices. The building is valued at $3.75 million, according to St. Johns County records.
At any time it will house 38 of the 65 cars in Davis’s collection, rated 41st in the world by The Collector Car Trust.
Davis declined to place a value on the collection.
“I prefer to focus on the historical significance of the cars and artifacts,” he said.
Not just for race fans
The museum is divided into two sections.
The first features open cockpit racers. The oldest is an 1894 Peugeot. Besides the cars, there are engines and vintage racing equipment and drivers’ gear.
Many of the cars have a kiosk that provides the car’s history, vintage photographs and stat sheets detailing car specifications.
The other area is full of Porsche race cars from 1953-2017. The star of this section is the Porsche 917K that was featured in the 1970 film “Le Mans” starring Steve McQueen.
After the movie, the car was stored in a barn for two decades. It was restored, but before the Jan. 20 opening of The Brumos Collection, the public last saw it in 2017.
The museum is not just for race fans and mechanics. There is a large display case of scale model tether cars that raced on small circular tracks.
“Maybe you don’t like cars, but you like interesting design or architecture. There is something for everyone. There are ways to find things that are interesting that aren’t talking about horsepower or displacement,” Starks said.
In addition to the first-floor showroom, there is a conference room with a view of the cars. The exterior windows are tinted so that the room is illuminated no matter the weather outside.
A wide spiral staircase opens onto a second-floor multipurpose theater and activity area. The room can be used for presentations or turned into a children’s play space.
The building has two fully equipped professional kitchens for caterers. A balcony next to the theater overlooks the showroom and can be set up for cocktails or a seated dinner.
The Dalton Agency is handling museum publicity. Initially, prospective guests most likely will hear about it from automotive publications, podcasts and social media.
Already, several car clubs are seeking group tours.
Starks said the Duval County location also will benefit from nearby events.
In Nassau County, the annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance car collection event will generate interest. The event this year is March 5-8.
In St. Johns County, The Brumos Collection’s proximity to The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass also will draw visitors, not only during The Players Championship, this year March 10-15, but throughout the year.
With Mayo Clinic just up the road, the museum will be an opportunity for patients and their families to see the cars.
“You have international visitors (coming to Mayo) with time on their hands. I see a lot of visitors coming here and going home and telling friends about their experience. There will be a lot of word-of-mouth,” Starks said.
Another part of the marketing plan will be corporate events and sponsorships. The location offers privacy for groups wanting to host exclusive gatherings.
Starks sees the museum as an alternative to a round of golf as a business icebreaker.
“Say you have a meeting and the client comes into town the day before. They might visit here and by the end of it you have something in common and you’ve bonded. There are ways it can be leveraged by our corporate partners,” he said.
“I have high hopes that it will become a popular and profitable venue for all types of events,” Davis said.