Ever since Glenn Romines Sr. opened Romines Motor Co. in 1933, the Ford dealership in Houston has been owned and operated by members of his family.
That’s about to change, as current owners Don, Barbara and Tyler Romines have sold the company to a group consisting of several local residents headed up by Rick Dixon, and including Dixon’s wife Lisa, son Josh and daughter Lydia, along with Rocky Gilbert and Kane Roth. Effective March 26, the new name of the dealership will be Piney River Ford.
“It’s time,” Don Romines said. “I’ll soon be 71 years old and I’ve been here 53 years and it’s time to go to my next job. I don’t know what that is – maybe keeping my wife happy, which I hope to do anyway.”
Romines Motor Co. has operated at three locations in Houston, starting out at the corner of Grand Avenue and Main Street downtown. The dealership moved in the 1940s to a second downtown building on Mill Street, and has been at its current location on U.S. 63 since 1984. Romines formerly offered Lincoln and Mercury products as well as Ford, and had a dealership in Cabool from 1993 to 2000.
Dixon said most of Romines’ current employees will stay on.
“First and foremost, we feel like this is a good business opportunity for our group,” Dixon said. “But we also didn’t want to see a Ford dealership leave Houston, and we didn’t want Don to retire and not sell it to somebody and have 25 people needing to find another job. Also, we think this place is a big asset to the community all the way around.”
Piney River Ford’s general manager will be Jay Loveland, who for years held a similar position at Wehr Ford in Mountain Grove and is a member of the Texas County Memorial Hospital board of directors.
“For Ford to give us a franchise, we needed a good general manager,” Dixon said. “We chose Jay because he lives in the area and has successfully run a dealership before, and we believe he’s very personable and good with the people.”
For many years, Don Romines worked at the dealership alongside his brothers Bob and Glenn Jr.
“I’m very excited for Rick and his people,” Romines said. “He’s local and he knows the people and the people know him. It’s not like somebody bought it from the outside and is going to come in here with big dreams and mistreat our customers. I think he has some of the same philosophies that my dad and I and my brothers have had over the years.
“My dad had a saying that if you take care of the customer, the customer will take care of you. We tried to live by that philosophy over the years.”
Dixon said there are no plans to bring in other brands.
“Ford brought us to the dance and we’ll stick with them,” he said. “But we might look at other business opportunities if they become available and make sense for us.”
During the 1960s and ’70s, there were as many as six locations in Houston where a new vehicle could be purchased, but Romines Motor Co. is the only one that remains. The dealership is a multi-faceted business, with vehicle sales, a service department, a parts department and a body shop.
“Thanks for the years of loyalty,” Don Romines said. “I hope we did a good job, and if we didn’t, shame on us. The people have been good to us for the past 87 years and we’ve been proud to serve the community.
“One of the best things that has happened to me is that I was able to work side by side with my dad for 26 years, Junior for 45 years, Bob for 41 years and my son for 18 years. Not everybody gets that opportunity.”
Dixon said his group is focused on maintaining the Romines family tradition.
“I want to thank Don, Barbara and Tyler for giving us the opportunity to purchase this dealership that’s been in their family for 87 years,” he said. “We feel like this is a blessing to us and it’s an opportunity for me and a younger group to come in and carry on what the people here have done for a long time. We would like to say we appreciate the customers that Don and his family have gathered up over the years, and we would sure like to take care of them. And if anyone out there doesn’t know us and we don’t know them, we would love to have the chance to earn their business, whether it be for a vehicle for sale, changing their oil, putting on a set of tires, or anything else we can help with.”
Don Romines served for many years on the Houston City Council, and has at times been involved in numerous other community causes and activities. He offered Dixon a bit of advice.
“Back in the mid-70s,” Romines said, “my dad lined me, Junior and Bob up and told us, ‘boys, if you don’t lie to somebody, you don’t have to remember what you said.’ If you live by that, you’ll do all right.”