“It’s all because of God. I’ve done what little bit I have done, but it’s all because of Him and what He has done.”
That’s the way Richard Woolwine explains the growth of his business, Woolwine Ford Lincoln.
Woolwine started out in 1971 washing cars in Collins at Sanford Sullivan Motors. He worked his way up into the parts department and then to the title of Parts and Service and Body Shop Manager.
“I then moved over to sales and worked my way up to general manager,” Woolwine said. “I have to thank Gerald Sullivan and Tom Sanford for giving me the opportunity.”
During his time at Sanford Sullivan Motors, Woolwine had watched the Ford dealership, D.L. Ford, in town become for sale.
“It had been for sale for a couple of years,” he said. “In July 1991 I contacted Mr. Stuart Leggett and Mr. Bobby Joe Dykes about the dealership. God gave me the chance, and He had a plan. It had nothing to do with me. I never dreamed of anything like this.
“My mother (Ivell Woolwine) used to say, ‘God can do exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.’
“Growing up, my daddy (Cecil Woolwine) used to say that if you were not working by 7 a.m. you had wasted half the day.”
Doing abundantly more than Richard Woolwine could imagine is what God has done with Woolwine Ford Lincoln.
When he was about 10 years old, Woolwine went to work on his neighbor’s chicken farm. When he received his first paycheck, his mother had words of wisdom for him.
“She told me, ‘You’re supposed to give 10 percent to the Lord, but to love the Lord is to give much more,” Woolwine said. “That’s something I’ve tried to live by.”
Woolwine was determined that his business would be based on faith.
“On our first day, August 17, 1991, I had our preacher Brother Billy M. Lowery on the dealership floor to pray with us.
“I’ve always said the blessings were because the Lord did it, if it’s been messed up it’s because I did it,” Woolwine laughed.
Today, in a new building, the dealership continues to grow, and Woolwine has brought on his two sons John and Daniel to work alongside him. His philosophy hasn’t changed. He still treats every customer with respect.
“That’s what has kept us going,” said John. “Our numbers have grown because people have come in and had a good experience.”
“We built this building for our customers and employees,” he said.
In recent years, the dealership had become a tight fit for the employees, cars, and customers.
“We were on top of each other,” said John.
“Ford asked all the dealers to upgrade their facilities,” said Richard. “It had been in the back of my mind for the last five years. One of the people from Ford was in the dealership and told us that we could be the last to change or the first to change, but that at some point we were going to have to change.”
“We knew we had to follow the company’s policies,” John added.
Woolwine Ford Lincoln was one of the first dealerships to build a brand new building.
When Richard made the decision to build a new building, he began looking around locally for someone to do the construction.
Using local people is exactly what the Woolwines did. Richard Woolwine contacted Sammy Davis of Davis Construction in Collins about the project.
“All of our bids were from local people,” John said.
Ultimately, Davis Construction won the contract on the building and went to work.
“Sammy went above and beyond on this building,” said Richard, “and I think it’s turned out to be a great thing for Collins.
“I’ve had owners of other Ford dealerships all over Mississippi calling me to tell me how good it looks on the highway as you come into Collins.”
The construction of the building took about 18 months and including very specific instructions from Ford.
From the color of the tile in the showroom to the paint color to the type of furniture in all the offices, Ford was very stringent on the details.
“We built the building using their ‘theater look’ parking lot that had to be approved by Ford Motor Company,” said John.
John described the theater look as the building sitting up higher than the parking lot so that it looks down on the cars on the lot.
“Every single detail had to be approved by Ford Motor Company,” Richard added.
The Woolwines agreed that the building was built for their customers. From the comfortable waiting area complete with large screen tv and fireplace to the latest technology offered to customers, every detail was thought out and planned for an enjoyable experience.
“We’ve doubled our shop space so that when our customers bring in a vehicle for service we can get them back on the road quicker,” John noted.
In the dealership, the sales offices went from 10 to over 20 office spaces.
“We’ve got a spacious parking lot with more room to display our cars,” said John, “and Blain Company in Mount Olive did all of our paving.”
“We are truly blessed to have a place like this in South Mississippi,” said Richard.
Looking ahead for Woolwine Ford Lincoln means looking to the next generation. Sons John and Daniel went to work as boys in the dealership washing cars and mowing grass and now work alongside their father.
“I started working in the summers when I was 14,” said John.
For the family it’s about continuing a tradition of sales, service, customer satisfaction and community service.
“We want people to have an enjoyable experience because we treat them like we want to be treated,” Richard said. “First of all we want to thank God. Secondly, we want to thank our loyal customers. We also want to thank our employees.”
Richard went on to thank the City of Collins and Covington County.
“They have been good to us over the years, and we want to thank Collins, Covington County and the surrounding counties for their support.”
A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting was held Thursday, April 7 at the dealership on Highway 49 in Collins.