They love their community, and last Thursday, their community returned the love. At the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce Business after Hours meeting, Jimmy and Dena's Body Shop was awarded the Small Business of the Year Award.
Thomson-McDuffie Chamber President Brad Adams talks with Jimmy and Dena Williams and Chamber Director Carolyn Gilbert during the Small Business of the Year recognition ceremony last week.
"We considered how much they contribute back to the community. To me that proves you're serious about your work and you're involved in McDuffie County, then you tend to give back to the community, and then you get back about tenfold. Jimmy and Dena's really do contribute more to this community than people realize," said Diane Wood, a Chamber board member who was part of the selection committee.
In addition to their support in the community, Jimmy and Dena's was also chosen because of their reputation of high quality work and professionalism, according to 2006 Committee Chairman Sean Kelley. Mr. Kelley owns Kelley Business Printers in Dearing, and was the recipient of last year's Small Business Award.
"I was sad to see (the award) leave Dearing, but I was glad to see them get it," he said. "Actually I personally have dealt with them working on my vehicle ... and was extremely pleased ... and other people's comments about their quality of work ... and their huge involvement in the area ... and their willingness to sponsor and help out anybody that needs help. It was a unanimous decision."
Dena Williams said she and her husband have been in the body shop business together since 1978. Mrs. Williams said her husband has always had a passion for cars. As a child he would put together model cars and paint them. They moved from Warner Robbins to Thomson to work for Johnson Chevrolet. Five years ago, they started their own business, and moved to their current location on East Hill Street three years ago.
Thomson-McDuffie Chamber President Brad Adams hugs Dena Williams during the Small Business of the Year recognition ceremony last week.
Mrs. Williams runs the business and accounting aspects of the shop, and handles filing insurance claims. The couple's two daughters, Jessie and Rebecca, also work in the office.
Mrs. Williams said it is difficult to go with the wreckers and see the severity of some wrecks their customers are sometimes involved in, but there is great reward in the repair aspect of their work.
"The best part is just being able to see what you've done, when people bring their car in here wrecked and you give it back to them. They're so happy when it looks like new again," she said.
Jimmy Williams and his technicians are certified through I-CAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair), DuPont and ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) training. Mrs. Williams said they "go through a lot of training," learning everything from accuracy in measuring and frame pulling techniques to plastics and bonding materials.
According to Mrs. Wood, today's economy makes it difficult for any new business owner to stay afloat. The same obstacles that affect large corporations and homeowners, such as paying a power bill, also affect small businesses.
"Just to prove that a small, family-owned business can make it just makes you feel so good and so proud. It just doesn't happen every day," Mrs. Wood said. "I think about these people that start in business, and I pray for them that it will work; because the self satisfaction that you receive when your business becomes a success is such a rewarding thing."
As recipients of the Small Business of the Year Award, Jimmy and Dena's received a plaque, a small sign for the front of their business, recognition in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter and local newspapers and flowers from Peacock Hill. Carolyn Gilbert, the Chamber director, said ice cream will be delivered to all the Jimmy and Dena's employees on Wednesday, a cake from Chinaberry's will be delivered on Thursday, and pizza on Friday.
"They get something every day, so it is a special week for them," Mrs. Gilbert said.
Mrs. Wood said the Williams' hard work and success makes them a great asset to the community. She said small businesses are important to Thomson because they provide opportunities for people to shop and work, thus keeping the local money here. Mrs. Wood said she had no idea how much the Williams' supported the community until she became involved on the Chamber Board. She described their involvement as a "well-kept secret."
But for Mrs. Williams, it's a two-way street.
"The community has been great, real supportive of our business. No company can stay here without the customers that they've got," she said.