Jim Golden Ford-Lincoln has been an institution in Camden for 25 years. Recently, the dealership was awarded a plaque for this milestone by the Ford Motor Company.
Andrew Frick, vice president of sales for Ford, stated, "It is my honor to congratulate Jim Golden-Ford, LLC on your 25th anniversary as a Ford dealer. We at Ford Motor Company understand and appreciate the significance of this milestone. This incredible accomplishment recognizes your well-deserved commitment to your communities, customers and employees."
"Your perseverance and dedication to the brand is remarkable and speaks to the quality of the organization you have built over the years at Jim Golden-Ford, LLC. We are sincerely grateful for your partnership and friendship," Frick continued.
Golden didn't start out in the car business. He originally had a much different path in mind with his biology degree from Henderson State University.
"I was going to be a dentist," Golden said.
Before college, Golden worked for the Goodyear tire company, but he said their policy of moving employees across the country didn't suit his aspirations, so he went to work at Cooper Industrial Products in El Dorado as an industrial engineer.
"I worked there for two years and a friend -- still a dear, dear friend of mine --, James Langley of Smackover Motors, asked a guy that moved from Arkadelphia, 'I need some help. I've got to have some help running this place,'" Golden said.
The man told Langley that Golden would be perfect for the position, he said, and Langley immediately went to work recruiting him, though Golden wasn't immediately sold on the idea, partly because the commission-based pay was not guaranteed.
"He worked on me for six months -- because I enjoyed working at Cooper and enjoyed what we were doing -- but James just got working on me and working on me and working on me," Golden said.
The turning point was a 1979 Thunderbird.
Golden had one on order and went to check on the progress, taking him into Langley's office one day.
"I said 'James, I know what you're fixing to ask me. But I've already told you no, I'm not interested in changing jobs right now,'" Golden recalled. "He said, 'You know, you've got this new 1979 Thunderbird coming in.' I said, 'Yes. I'm excited.' He said 'What if I told you that if you want to work me, that'd be your demo? You wouldn't have to buy it.' I looked at him and said, 'You just hired me.'"
Golden said there have been many changes and ups-and-downs in the industry since he started.
"When I first went to work at Smackover Motors, there was no computers in a dealership. You ordered your vehicles over the telephone. I mean everything was by hand, you know," Golden said.
Golden first came to Camden as a Chevrolet dealer in 1985, then four years later joined with Curtis Long at Curtis Long Ford. He bought his partner out in the late 90's.
Golden said one of the darkest days in his career was when the International Paper Mill shut down in Camden, leaving hundreds without jobs over night.
"I had a lot of friends that worked at IP and I was very, very sad and I knew it was going to be some tough times ahead, you know," Golden said.
But he also said that he maintained an air of optimism.
"You know, I didn't let it worry me to death, because I can only do so much, and so I just kept trying to do what I could do, you know. And I hired some of the people that got laid off, you know, and then we're so blessed to have the defense industry we have out there," he said.
An equally devastating event was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only caused a major health crisis, but caused major supply chain issues for may car dealerships.
Still, Golden's dealership survived the worst of it because of the relationships he maintained with customers.
He stated, "This dealership had an ace in the hole because it has always been my goal to take care of the customer beyond everything else, and also take care of the people that work with you."
Golden says he enjoys living in Camden.
"Camden is really a fantastic place to live when we all work together and everybody needs to be proud of what we have, and not dwell on what we don't have or what they think we don't have we have so much," he said.