The Engine Roars On
Tom Edwards Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram
BY MARIA IANNUCCI
In today’s world, many have visited a variety of auto dealerships that are expanding, growing, and looking very different from the dealerships of yesteryear. With so much competition in the marketplace, dealers are often finding new ways to reach their customer base. At Tom Edwards Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM in Bartow, generations of the Edwards family have grown and carried their business through economic times, good and bad, and with one focus: having their family serving the families of its valued customers since 1973.
J. Thomas Edwards, Jr., born and raised in Starkville, MS, was a middle child in a family where money was tight. Growing up, he and his family worked in the cotton mills for 15 cents an hour which went to run the household. At 16, Tom’s mother signed for him to enter the United States Air Force and he was stationed at MacDill AFB in Tampa; where he met his wife, Iona, at a local skating rink. After the USAF, Tom went to work as a salesman at several Tampa Bay area auto dealerships, eventually working his way up to Sales Manager.
In time, his entrepreneurial spirit helped him and Iona find a way to start their family business – opening the Tom Edwards Chrysler Dodge dealership in Bartow in 1973. The site was an old gas station that was converted; a photo of the original building is nostalgic to the era. They remain the longest-running Chrysler dealership in Polk County.
Their son, Randy, was hired as the dealership’s comptroller in 1975, eventually becoming Sales Manager and is now General Manager and Dealer Prinicipal. Randy’s son, Clint, made the Edwards trifecta by becoming involved by riding in the company float during the Bartow Christmas Parade at the age of 6. In 1989, Tom Edwards Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM had expanded to the point where relocation to their current site became necessary; enhancing their ability to service their clients and carry more inventory. At 15, Clint was detailing and washing cars as a part-time job in high school. After graduation, Clint entered the Navy; he eventually returned home and integrated himself back into his family’s business. Now 31, Clint has served as Service Manager and is currently involved in all operations of the business at Tom Edwards Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM.
With almost 40 years in the business of serving its customers, Clint shared, “We have worked hard to continue my grandfather’s legacy and I know he would be proud.”
Community means a great deal to the Edwardses; Clint volunteers with the Bartow High School basketball team, is on the Board of Directors for the Bartow Chamber of Commerce. Clint is also on the Steering Committee for the Chamber Young Professionals group, CYP. Randy is a member of Bartow Kiwanis and is an active Bartow Chamber member.
The company is as proud of their family of employees as they are of their history. “We have over 40 employees,” said Clint, “and we celebrate each year of service with them.”
The company’s goals, Clint tells us, are like life goals. “Provide good service, be honest, and be a good influence on someone else along the way,” said Clint. “We are always looking to improve and grow. Expanding the horizons of the dealership is the key to long-term viability.”
Almost 40 years and counting sure seems like a great start.