Madras business owners since 1937

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Terry Hanlon, left, who has owned Miller Ford for 18 years, finalized the sale of his business to longtime Central Oregon car dealers Matt, above, and Bill Thomas, of Bend. The new business name will be Thomas Sales and Service Ford.Long a fixture of Madras, Thomas Sales and Service is back in the new car business with last week's purchase of Miller Ford.

On Thursday, July 11, Matt Thomas, of Bend, whose family has sold cars in Madras since 1937, and Terry Hanlon, who has owned Miller Ford since 1995, signed three notebooks full of documents to complete the sale.

The sale was the culmination of three months of negotiations among Ford Motor Co., Hanlon, and Matt and Bill Thomas, the owners of Subaru of Bend, and Approved Auto of Central Oregon, which has locations in Madras, Redmond and Bend.

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Terry Hanlon, left, and Matt Thomas sign paperwork July 11 for the sale/purchase of Miller Ford."We wanted to get back in the domestic car business," said Matt Thomas. The Thomas brothers, who owned Thomas Sales and Service, lost their Dodge franchise in 2009, when Chrysler closed hundreds of franchises across the country.

Since then, they had been looking for another franchise to buy, and in April, heard that Hanlon wanted to sell.

"We will be launching it as Thomas Sales and Service Ford," said Thomas. "We're trying to keep all the same employees; the only thing that should change is the name of the store and the ownership."

The business currently has about 20 employees, but Thomas expects to add to the staff. "We're going to grow that service business, and bring in a lot of the latest equipment," he said.

Thomas expects that he will be spending much of his time in Madras. "We absolutely look forward to being back in Madras, where we started in 1937," he said.

That was the year that William Thomas, the grandfather of the Thomases, opened the Thomas and Doty Super Service Center — a gas station and Dodge and Plymouth dealership. William Thomas died in 1961, when his sons Pat and Jack took over the business, which had become Thomas Sales and Service. Pat Thomas, who died June 18, eventually bought out his brother, and in turn, his sons Matt and Bill bought him out in 1995.

Hanlon, who bought the business in 1995 and moved into the new location in 1999, hopes to spend some time relaxing. "I have a home on Camino Island, Wash.," he said. "That's where I'll be, sitting on the deck drinking gin and tonics."

Originally from Seattle, Hanlon has enjoyed his years in Madras, where he has "some great friends."

"I plan to ultimately come back here," he said, noting that he will keep his home in Madras.

With the purchase of the new business, Thomas finds himself facing a new challenge. "I spent my whole life trying to convert people from Ford to Dodge and I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to convert them back to Ford," said Thomas.

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