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Car dealership changes hands

[Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
Salesman Doug Vaughan, right, helps Dave Bartlett of Spring Hill look through a used van with his daughters Hannah, 2, and Bathany, 1 at Rick Matthews Buick Pontiac GMC. The dealership was sold to Matthews on Monday.

Wes Harris' dealership now belongs to former New Mexico dealership owner, who says he will keep all the employees.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- It's time to change the signs at Wes Harris Buick Pontiac GMC.

Twenty-five years after opening his successful Brooksville auto dealership, Harris, 59, sold the 10-acre property on State Road 50 on Monday to a car dealer who recently sold his business in Albuquerque, N.M., and moved to Hernando County.

By late Monday afternoon, employees already were answering the phones with the dealership's new name: Rick Matthews Buick Pontiac GMC. The deal, finalized shortly before 5:30 p.m. Monday, capped six months of negotiations, according to Matthews, 51, who said he has known Harris for about five years and has long wanted to make the move to Florida.

Sitting behind his new desk Monday, Matthews breathed a sigh of relief after the marathon real estate closing, which began at 10 a.m.

"It's today," he said. "It's done."

First on Matthews' agenda is an expanded body shop that will be added on a section of the parcel's 5 undeveloped acres near the new Suncoast Parkway.

Likewise, Matthews said he will build on the dealership's reputation for solid customer service.

"We think it's a great opportunity to do business," Matthews said. "We're ready to call this home."

On his way out of the building Monday, Harris smiled and shook hands with employees, but declined to discuss his reasons for selling.

Harris' daughter, Kelly Sartor, 30, who has worked at the dealership for the past seven years, said her father had long prided himself on giving customers personal attention.

"It's always been a family dealership," she said. "If people asked for a Wes Harris, there was a Wes Harris."

Wes Harris Jr., 33, who had served as general manager for his father's business for the past several years, left recently for a job at a Tampa Mercedes dealership, according to Sartor.

Matthews said he will retain the operation's 65 employees.

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