Five years after leaving a broadcasting career stretching almost three decades, Barry Davis has re-invented himself as a car salesman and is fronting several tribute bands.
It’s been an interesting transition for Davis, who worked for more than 14 years for Rogers Sportsnet as part of its coverage of the Toronto Blue Jays. He was the in-game reporter and became known for his player interviews, including one instance when he did so while wearing goggles during the team’s wild champagne celebrations after clinching a wild card berth in 2016. He and the company parted ways in 2017 and he’s been selling cars since January of last year.
A colleague at the dealership suggested he set up his desk with photos to reveal a little about himself to customers. Davis then put up a digital display with many images from his Blue Jays broadcast days and it has resonated with potential clients.
“It is pretty cool because it gives us a bit of a talking point, especially if it’s a sports fan,” Davis said. “It’s a nice ice-breaker with customers, at least the ones who are sports fans. I’d like to think the cars and the job that I do as a salesperson are what close the deals.”
Davis began doing sports and music podcasts but struggled financially to make it work. In November 2019 he took a warehouse job at Bass Pro. However, he was laid off two weeks before Christmas in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Davis then thought about working in the automotive industry, which was allowed to stay open by the province. He contacted Toronto Raptors’ superfan Nav Bhatia – whom he knew from having worked on Rogers’ basketball broadcasts – asking him for some advice about working as a car salesperson.
Bhatia, who owns three dealerships, offered Davis a job. Davis got his Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council licence and began working for commission as a sales and leasing consultant at Rexdale Hyundai in January 2021.
Three months later, Davis switched to Georgetown Honda because he was looking for something closer to home and liked the brand, as he’s been a loyal customer for many years. He was told about the Honda job by Joe Pinto, who does the sound for Davis’ music gigs at Spot 1 Grill & Music in Brampton and also works at the dealership.
He was feeling good about his new job, but COVID-19 impacted him again. Dealerships are operating with few new vehicles because some factories that produce semiconductors, which are a major component in building cars, shut down during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020.
A second wave of closures in the fall further exacerbated the problem, even though there is strong consumer demand for new cars. Customers seeking to make purchases are being told it can take several weeks or months for the cars to be delivered. Normally they are available for pickup in just a few days or a couple weeks.
“It’s becoming much harder for the consumer and becomes a much bigger challenge for the salesperson, especially when you are working in a commission business, where you don’t get paid until the car is delivered,” said Davis, adding he does receive a small-guaranteed salary.
Davis has also been working hard in his spare time as a musician, something he did before he entered the broadcast business. After seeing a documentary about Tom Petty, he put together a tribute band called We Ain’t Petty and soon began receiving gigs. He then developed a tribute band for The Cars, an idea he first had in 1984. He dresses up like the band’s lead singer, the late Rik Ocasek. A friend, Ed Sousa— who manages Classic Bowl in Mississauga – suggested the name Driven, and soon started booking him.
Along with Tom Forth, who is a member of Driven, Davis has also put together a John Lennon and Paul McCartney tribute duo called Nowhere Man. Just when he was starting to receive engagements for all his bands, the fast-spreading Omicron variant led to another closure of businesses. While he’s been challenged significantly in his full-time job and part-time career, Davis is trying to look at everything positively.
“The most beautiful, amazing thing that has come out of me leaving Sportsnet is the number of people I have met and have gotten to know and who have become really close friends since I left, not to mention being able to open my doors to music,” he said. “I hadn’t performed in almost 30 years before I went back on stage again and performed in a band (after leaving Sportsnet). I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got back on stage and began performing.
“I’ve been able to find happiness in other ways. It’s not necessarily all about what I’m doing for a living that makes me happy now. I just do what I think is the best thing for me.”