Family Ties Keep the American Dream Alive for Two Families
The roots go back to the mid 1920’s, Artesia’s oil boom. With an abundance of newly discovered natural resources, many immigrants and investors began settling into the town of Artesia, New Mexico. Several courageous individuals seized an opportunity to serve the quickly growing community by starting their own businesses. Two of these early visionaries created long-running service companies that are still serving Artesia’s community today. They had the dream, took a chance, did the work, and found great success.
Originally located at the corner of First and Main Street, you could find two of Artesia’s most successful business pioneers. Sharing headquarters at Artesia’s cornerstone, Mr. J.S. Ward and Clyde Guy served their community through hard work, determination, and initiative. Their unique qualities provided a strong foundation that has allowed these family-owned businesses to excel through generations.
JS Ward & Son
JS Ward & Son Inc., now settled in the heart of downtown Artesia, is an independent insurance agency writing all lines of insurance. When you walk through their doors you’ll find more than 21 employees with a combined 400 years of experience. Third and fourth generation family members, Gary & Sara Sims and Anna Sims Byers, are proud successors of the family business. Sara (Ward) Sims is the granddaughter to the original owner J.S. Ward, who opened the family business over 90 years ago.
In April 1925, Jessie Sterling Ward, commonly known as “Fritz”, launched a business selling oil and gas bonds. The eponymous company found success by specializing in both the oil and gas and farm and ranch industries that were flourishing at the time. J.S. Ward carried a passion for building relationships and providing personal service for each customer, an ideal that remains the driving force of the company to this day.
After serving in the Army, Edwin Henry Ward returned home and joined his father in business. It was then that the agency adopted its current name, J.S. Ward & Son, Inc. Over the next several years, E.H. devoted himself to building the company with a tenacity that drove the agency to hit their first million in premium sales in 1974. In 1975, however, E.H. Ward unexpectedly passed away leaving his wife, Charlene M. Ward, to take the helm. Charlene was a pioneer in the community in a time when many women did not work outside of the home. Well-known for her business savvy, she helped J.S. Ward & Son become one of the top insurance agencies in southeast New Mexico.
After the passing of E.H. Ward, Charlene asked her son-in-law, Gary Sims, to join her in continuing the family business. Gary met Sara Ward while attending college at The University of the South in Tennessee, located in Sewanee. Gary, the youngest of 12 children, grew up in the mountains of Tennessee and was recruited to play college football at the university. Sara, an Artesia native, fled the desert on a train to her college career at Sewanee. The couple married in Nashville in 1974, unaware that their vows to “never return to their hometowns” would soon change.
Gary agreed to leave his job as an English teacher and coach to join the family business in the summer of 1975. The couple drove, with no air conditioner, from Florida and across Texas and moved into a small apartment in Artesia. As the couple settled into a new lifestyle, Gary began training for his new position as an insurance producer. He fell in love with the small town and instantly connected with the community. Sara’s father, E.H., always hoped she’d attain her college degree so she felt compelled to honor him in that way. She and their young daughter, Anna, spent a year in Las Cruces while Sara finished her bachelor’s degree. Together, Gary and Sara spent the next couple of decades raising their two daughters and successfully running the family business.
Rebuilding After Tragedy
Tragedy struck in the fall of 2000 when the family watched their historical office building burn to the ground in an electrical fire. Demonstrating the same kind of grit and determination as their predecessors, the family carried on. Despite the temporary setback, the family dream never died; the resilience inherited from generations before drove the family to overcome and use the hardship as an opportunity for growth. After four years of construction, their office was rebuilt with the original neon sign hanging from the unique two-story brick office building at 4th and Main Street.
In January 2004, the couple’s eldest daughter, Anna, moved home to Artesia. After much consideration, and a mandatory interview with her Grammy (Charlene), Anna began her career in the family business. Drawing inspiration from the women who walked before her, she worked hard to learn the business from top to bottom. With Anna’s fresh eyes, the family began expanding their services and searching for new opportunities to serve the surrounding community. The family was able to purchase many books of business throughout the years that enabled them to advance through the market. With Anna’s vision and initiative, and the unwavering support of the family, J.S. Ward & Son has continued to grow, with offices in Artesia, Carlsbad, Roswell, and Hobbs.
Guy Chevrolet Company
Travel just a few blocks down the street and you will find another living illustration of the enduring nature of the American spirit in a small town, family business. Guy Chevrolet Company serves the automotive needs of Artesia – their service station and dealership remain in the original location, centered at the intersection of U.S. Route 82 and U.S. Route 285. Built in a time when transactions were trusted on the shake of a hand, the family preserves the value of relationships and takes pride in their local reputation as an honest, dependable business within the community. Their ability to compete in a constantly evolving market is a credit to the legacy behind Guy Chevrolet Company, which began over 90 years ago.
Clyde Guy, a teenager from Coffeeville, Alabama, relocated to southeast New Mexico in the early 1920’s. He started working as a bus driver and would often stop between his bus route from Roswell to Carlsbad at a corner service station called The Lowery Key Auto Company. The owner, Mr. Lowery, recognized Clyde’s diligence and dedication to his work and asked him to come work at the station. Clyde initially declined the offer but fate led him to finally switch to the automobile service industry in 1925. Clyde worked beside Mr. Loury for many years, eventually taking over the business in 1928.
In 1932, Clyde Guy contracted as a Chevrolet dealer and retitled the business Guy Chevrolet Company. Clyde’s approach to simply “treat people the way you want to be treated” gained him much respect in the community. The company prospered by selling new and used Chevrolet vehicles and eventually expanded, adding Guy Tire & Appliance and Clyde Guy Malco Distributor. In an era before advertising gimmicks on television or internet campaigns, Clyde managed to generate buzz and attract customers by inviting the public to view the unveiling of the newly released car models in his showroom. The family still recalls with great fondness the highly anticipated “Show Days,” when customers would be treated to food, drinks and insider peeks at the newest automobiles to hit the market.
Clyde’s son, Eddie began working the service station at only eight years old; he always enjoyed helping his father at the car shop. Stacking up wooden Coca-Cola boxes to help wash windshields, Eddie knew at a young age that he would continue the family business he watched his father nurture and love so much. Eddie worked through his childhood in the service department and began selling vehicles in 1974. His ability to maintain relevance in the constantly changing auto industry has led the company through generations of success. Eddie has upheld the reputation of the company by infusing the core values he learned from his father – hard work, respect, and serving the community.
In December of 1998, Dani (Guy) Kuykendall returned home after graduating from college at New Mexico State University and began working at the family business. Starting in the service department and office, she worked her way up to general manager for the company. Following the lead of family patriarch, Clyde Guy, Dani is driven by a passion to keep their customers satisfied by ensuring the company maintains a culture of service within the business, the community, and to the customers. Guy Chevrolet has navigated the changes in the automotive industry, advances in technology, and fluctuating economies throughout the years, a fact that is a great source of pride for the family. Three generations of Guy lineage have contributed to the thriving success of the dealership. Even now, Dani’s young daughter, Gracen, can be found “working” in the office after school – and so the legacy continues….
The history of Artesia is strewn with countless incarnations of the American Dream made reality through the tenants of good old-fashioned hard work, commitment, and perseverance. However, the common theme woven throughout these stories is simple: family. Over the course of many generations, both the Ward and Guy families have not only established incredibly successful businesses, but have also managed to sustain that success without sacrificing their guiding principles of family values and true service to the community.