By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – After working for more than 50 years, Frankie Blackmon is about to get a good dose of free time.
“I’m ready to enjoy some of the finer things in life,” he said Wednesday.
He’s retiring from the automobile business, with the goal of spending more quality time with his wife, the former Bonnie Johnson of Meridian. His career will be honored at a retirement reception Tuesday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Chevrolet dealership at 1410 S. Gloster St.
“He’s deserving,” said Rudy Dossett Jr. of Dossett Big 4. “He’s an outstanding citizen and good for the community. As a fellow GM dealer, I wish him well.”
The transition already has begun, with Blackmon giving each of his children a dealership.
Brenda Blackmon Smith now is the owner and president of Frankie Blackmon of Corinth, which has changed its name to Crossroads Automotive of Corinth.
Dwayne Blackmon is the owner and president of Frankie Blackmon Chevrolet in Tupelo, which has changed its name to Dwayne Blackmon Chevrolet.
Frankie Blackmon remains the owner of the Hyundai-Mazda dealership on North Gloster Street and said he will announce plans for it in July.
Frankie Blackmon’s recent gifts are a long way from his humble job beginnings.
“I started right out of high school delivering and stocking parts for the Chevrolet store in Meridian,” he said.
He continued working in the automobile industry, but never planned to make a career out of it.
“It was just something that happened,” Blackmon said. “I kind of worked my way into selling and servicing cars.”
He also worked his way into a multitude of leadership roles in the community and in the state’s automobile industry.
He’s been a board member of the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association for 17 years and is a past chairman. He also has served on several General Motors National Dealer Council boards.
And in 2005, he was one of 65 dealers in the country to be given the Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award.
Blackmon noted the changes that the automobile industry has undergone during his career. He remembers when people had to sign only two pieces of paper to buy a car if they weren’t financing it. Now, there’s much more paperwork.
It’s also more common for people to finance vehicles and the terms are for 60 months or longer, he said.
He said he misses the new car shows of the 1970s where the dealerships would hide their new cars and unveil them on the same day.
Customers would make the rounds to each dealership, he said.
“I miss that part of it,” he said. “It was an exciting time for people to come in and look at the models.”
The practice has changed, he said, because the auto companies come out with so many models and advancements throughout the year that it is hard to unveil them on one day.
“We’ve already got 2011 models that we’re selling,” he said.
Even though he is leaving the dealerships to retire, he is sticking close to the brand he has represented for so long. He and his wife plan to travel the U.S. in their Chevrolet Tahoe.
They also plan to visit Israel.
And while he’s leaving the auto business, he said he thinks it is a good industry to be in.
“I don’t think the industry will ever be as strong as it was before the last downturn in the economy but I think it will come back and be real strong,” Blackmon said. “People have got to have transportation to get to work, church and to go shopping.”
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.