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A new lease on life and business for Murray

by: JIM CLARK - Bess Wills will be moving her Ford dealership to the Murray Chevrolet facility now that Steve Murray has retired and closed his business.For nearly 40 years, the Murray family has been putting wheels under the feet of local residents.

But the Murrays also put wheels under the city of Gresham. Robert “Bob” Murray and his son, Steve, were forward thinkers as the city began to grow and establish its identity. They advocated for superior medical care, world-class jazz and high-quality education. They helped pave the road Gresham took on its journey to become the fourth-largest city in the state, by believing and investing in their community.

Steve retired July 31. He has been in the driver’s seat at Murray Chevrolet and Mazda, following the death of his father in the early 1980s, continuing a tradition of service to his customers and his neighbors. The longtime landmark on Powell Boulevard soon will be the home of Gresham Ford, whose owners and employees are equally as passionate about supporting the community.

Murray declined to be interviewed, but friends say he’s filled his father’s shoes admirably in his service and dedication to the city. They describe him as a private man, with an off-beat humor and passion for fishing. They also say there was never any question Murray would join the family business, but as a young man, he received no breaks as the owner’s son.

“He started from the ground up,” said Doug Walker, owner of Walker Travel in Gresham. “He didn’t just come in as vice president and then president. His dad made him learn how to change oil and wash cars.”

Walker served in the Gresham Rotary Club with the elder Murray, who was president from 1977-1978. When the former Gresham Community Hospital outgrew its facilities, Bob established the Mount Hood Hospital Foundation and lobbied then-Gov. Vic Atiyeh for a new medical facility. He also formed a capital campaign committee to raise money for the hospital’s construction.

“He was the lead donor to the campaign,” Walker said. “He knew everybody, and if he met you once, he remembered your name. His heart was always in the community.”

When Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center was formally dedicated in November 1983, it was done in Bob Murray’s memory.

Retired Gresham podiatrist Tom Robertson has been Steve Murray’s fishing partner-in-crime for more than a decade. The pair spent many years chasing halibut and salmon in Alaska and British Columbia.

But what Robertson always admired was Steve’s quiet resolve to make a difference without being noticed.

“He did a lot of things in the community that people didn’t know he was involved in,” Robertson said. “He was always donating to school auctions and was very supportive of the auction at Mt. Hood Community College. He was also very involved in getting the (Mt. Hood) Jazz Festival off the ground. He spent hours and hours and a lot of money making that thing go.”

New home for Gresham Ford

While Steve commemorated his retirement with a fishing pole in his hand earlier this month, Bess Wills and Gresham Ford were beginning the transition to the dealership’s new digs across the street.

Wills approached Steve about leasing Murray’s facilities months ago, when Steve’s retirement was confirmed. Gresham Ford’s current lease with Bryan Bickmore expires the end of October, and the slightly larger new location will allow Gresham Ford to expand not only its inventory but the services it will offer.

“Not only will we be a full-service Ford dealership,” Wills said, “but we will also be putting in a Quick Lane Tire and Auto Maintenance Center. The Quick Lane store will make it possible for us to work on all makes and models and continue to service the General Motors and Mazda customers who used to go to Murray Chevrolet.”

The Quick Lane facility is a recently developed franchise concept through Ford, Wills said, offering customers a one-stop-shop for tires, oil changes, alignment, brakes and batteries as well as light maintenance. Gresham Ford absorbed several certified mechanics from Murray Chevrolet to staff the Quick Lane center, which should begin seeing customers by mid-October. Additionally, Wills said, eight diesel mechanics, who serviced motor homes at Murray Chevrolet, are bringing their expertise to Gresham Ford.

“This will allow us to grow our motor home business,” Wills said. “One of the great things Murray did was service motor homes, and we will be able to continue that service for customers.”

Wills said Gresham Ford plans to invest nearly $1 million in a remodel to meet Ford’s standardized design requirements, which will take close to a year to complete. And additional lot space on the Murray site gives Gresham Ford an opportunity to expand its product line.

“We are looking at other alternate fuel vehicle franchises,” Wills said. “We will have the Ford Fusion and the new CMAX, which are both electric, but we’re looking at more too.”

Customers have adapted well to the transition between buildings, Wills said, and even offered to help move the dealership’s mechanics and employees. While plans for an “excuse our dust” party are tentatively scheduled for mid-October, Wills said it won’t be as much a grand opening as an acknowledgment of the Murray family’s ongoing presence.

“It’s a blessing to be part of this community,” Wills said. “When we came here 10 years ago, I was very cognizant of learning about McRobert Motor Company and talked to Gussie about how they helped the community (as a business). We’re honored to continue our business where the Murrays have served the community for so many years in such a generous way.”




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