Hamilton celebrates 25 years in business

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Proctorville - "My father said when I left the farm, it wouldn’t be easy," Jim Hamilton said, smiling.

Hamilton, the owner of Hamilton Chevrolet in Proctorville, recently retired. In fact, he had a retirement, a birthday and an anniversary all at the same time.

Although the dealership celebrated its 25th Anniversary, Hamilton said he had been in the car business for 45 years all together, and that time is filled with family, fond memories, and some incredible stories.

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He started working at Harriston Chevrolet in Chesapeake in 1960. When he started, Hamilton washed cars, worked on the lube rack and was a mechanic's helper. He said that one day the owner walked in, handed him a clipboard and named him service manager, a position he held for seven years.

"You don’t get rich in this country, you make a living," he said.

Hamilton received new clipboards, numerous times over the next years; first, as the body shop foreman, then as used car manager. Eventually, he became a Chevy dealer, and from 1971-78, he was acting dealer before purchasing the business in 1980.

Today, Hamilton recalls moving into the current location in Proctorville and remodeling it.

Hamilton said the first 25 years wasn't the hardest part.

"The second 25 years is trying to hold on," he said, laughing.

Hamilton said the business has changed through the years.

For example, interest rates in 1981 were 21 percent, and Hamilton remembers a time when everyone knew their bankers, and the bankers knew their customers.

Despite the years and the changing world, Hamilton said one thing hasn't changed - the dealership takes care of its employees and customers.

In the evening after work, his wife would come home and put on a pot of beans, and then she would get up early in the morning to make cornbread – to feed the employees.

"This is a family business," he said. "The success is dealing with the employees. They have a hold of the same rope, pulling the same way; all you have to do is guide it."

Hamilton’s whole family works at the dealership, "family and good employees."

He has now passed the keys on to his son Eddie Marshall, and although he is retired, Hamilton said he still gets up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. every day.

"I can remember the days I couldn’t wait to get up and go work, and you had to make me go home," he said.

"It’s been good."