MOUNT CARMEL — In 1917, Kamp Motors Sales started the Chrysler business in a building at the corner of Seventh and Market streets in Mount Carmel. One hundred years later, J. Wilderman Autoplex has been presented with the 100 years of continuous service award.
Thursday, Jim Wilderman accepted the award from Chrysler Corporation representatives.
"This isn't about me," he said. "It's about the people who have worked for me over the years and I've been real lucky to be able to say that I've had a good crew."
Wilderman didn't start out wanting to sell cars — he intended to enter the newspaper industry. Yet, he returned to Mount Carmel to be close to his father, who was in ill health.
Once here, Wilderman became an English teacher at Mount Carmel High School, where he assisted with the two school newspapers. When it was time to buy a car, he stopped by Princeton Ford, where Tom Sharrett was sales manager.
Tom told Wilderman, "Jimmy Joe, I'm not gonna sell you a car...I'll give you one if you come to work here to sell cars. You'll never go back to teaching."
The deal was too good to pass up, Wilderman said, although he continued to teach a while longer.
He then worked selling cars for various dealers in Mount Carmel. At the time, there were five car dealerships in town in the early 70’s.
In 1974, Wilderman was asked by one of the owners, a friend of his father, to buy Kamp Motors in Mount Carmel. He did, and Wilderman was the operator of that dealership until December of 1985 before purchasing Sunnyside Motors in Mount Carmel, the local Ford dealership.
Wilderman combined the Chrysler and Ford Lincoln Mercury lines which are still in business today as J. Wilderman Autoplex located at 1422 W. Ninth St. in Mount Carmel.
In 1991, he purchased the GM dealership from the Bellessa family who were also in Mount Carmel. In 2005, Jim Wilderman and his current partner Mark Ide then purchased the property in Princeton, which is now Patriot Chevrolet, Buick, GMC. Both stores are still in operation.
When Wilderman bought the Chrysler franchise the name and location had not been changed since its origination in 1917. And since the Chrysler franchise has never left Mount Carmel, Chrysler Corporation presented Wilderman’s dealership, J. Wilderman Autoplex, with a 100 year of continuous service award.
Chrysler Corporate Assistant Sales Operation Manager Greg Rush said very few dealerships across the country have received such a prestigious award.
"I'm proud of our longevity and serving the Mount Carmel and surrounding counties. I hope to be here for another 100 years!" Wilderman said.