OFF THE CUFF

An era ends next week in Houston.

On Thursday (March 26), Romines Motor Co. will become Piney River Ford, marking the first time since the dealership opened in 1933 that it will have a different name and won’t be owned by members of the same family.

For me, the change brings about mixed feelings. I have spent many years visiting Romines at least once a week for purposes related to my job involving advertising, community-oriented events and other subjects. During that time, I came to know Don Romines very well and developed a deep admiration for his zeal with regard to his hometown, and his unwavering attention to what he felt was right.

All the while, I was also building a strong friendship with Don’s son, Tyler, and have nothing but positive memories of every moment we shared (including an epic trip to Busch Stadium to unfortunately watch the Cubs destroy the Cardinals). The two of us come from very different backgrounds, but have a remarkably similar viewpoint of the crazy world in which we live. I can’t even count how many times I had tears of laughter in my eyes while we hung out together, or rolled my eyes in agreement while we discussed some weird world event or nodded as we pondered a way of changing humanity for the better.

I also got to know a whole bunch of other people at Romines who I now call friends, and very much looked forward to my visits to a place that I liked to joke was like a real life version of a TV situation comedy.

Joking aside, I always perceived a solid family-oriented atmosphere that wasn’t just emanating from the people whose name was on the sign, but everyone in the building. I always enjoyed the camaraderie and the conversation, and it’s been an experience I don’t take lightly and I feel blessed to have been a part of.

At the same time, I wish Rick Dixon and his Piney River Ford ownership group all the best in their new venture – for several reasons.

Primarily, I think it’s important for the community that the dealership not only survives in its new incarnation, but thrives. As recently as the 1970s, there were automotive dealerships in Houston where you could buy new vehicles from Dodge, Plymouth, Buick, Pontiac, GMC, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, International, American Motors and even Willys Jeeps.

Now, Ford is the lone manufacturer to have a new vehicle presence in Houston. That’s kind of sad, but I guess it’s certainly a sign of the times.

But rather than dwell on what Houston has lost, there’s an opportunity here to hold dear to what it has. Whether or not Houston has any other new car dealership isn’t relevant; Houston has Piney River Ford and that’s something to be glad for.

Hey, even if a person isn’t ready to buy a brand new F-150, there’s tires, parts, service and a body shop, and friendly, capable people ready to help in each of those areas of the business. And you never know what pre-owned vehicle might show up on the lot. Just sayin’.

As Dixon said, people are prone these days to go to great lengths to save a small amount of money, and if they look a little closer at a situation, might find they’re not actually saving a thing. As he also said, there’s no harm in giving the local guys a shot, and doing so makes total sense and might end up being a win-win situation.

Anyway, while an era ends next week, another begins. As has been said, when one door closes, another often opens, and that’s exactly what’s going down on U.S. 63 in the middle of Houston.

Wow, Romines Motor Co. had an 87-year run here – that’s mind-boggling! Here’s to hoping that people get behind Piney River Ford and it lasts as just as long.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.

Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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