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October 7, 2015

Marshall Ford celebrates a century in business

It’s a historical landmark for Fauquier County and the town of Marshall.
— Marshall District Supervisor Peter Schwartz
Marshall Ford
• What: Car and truck dealership

• Owners: David Baird and Thomas O’Brien for 26 years

• Where: 8323 W. Main St., Marshall

• When: Opened Nov. 23, 1915

• Phone: 1-877-863-6597

• Website: www.marshallfordva.com
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The dealership has survived the Great Depression, recessions, technological revolutions and the changing landscape of Marshall’s bustling Main Street.

For 100 years, Marshall Ford continuously has operated in the same building at West Main Street and Winchester Road.

“It’s a historical landmark for Fauquier County and the town of Marshall,” Marshall District Supervisor Peter Schwartz said.

Henry L. Lee opened the business H. L. & Son Ford Sales & Service on Nov. 23, 1915.

As the first car dealership in Marshall, it opened before paved streets came to town.

John Russell of Orlean built the two-story, white stucco building in 1915.

The first floor housed the garage while the second floor accommodated Saturday night dances, community meetings and church suppers, according to local history.

Over the years, the 4,800-square-foot building has remained relatively unchanged.

An original photo shows garage doors on the first floor, now replaced with windows.

Today a 1926 “open-air” Model T sits inside the building and the second floor is used for storage.

A receipt from the purchase of three Model T Touring cars hangs on the wall alongside photos of Henry Lee.

In 1920, those three cars — with freight shipping and tax — cost $1,744.17.

David Baird from Vienna and Thomas O’Brien have owned the dealership since 1989.

Mr. Baird said personalized customer service and low prices make Marshall Ford unique.

“I’m involved in every sale,” he said. “Bigger is really not better for the customer. With our low overhead, we keep the prices down for customers.”

Marshall Ford employs 10.

“It’s the best kind of auto dealership,” said Mr. Schwartz, who has purchased three vehicles there. “It’s one of the very few remaining dealerships anywhere where you can walk in and buy your car and address your concerns to the owners of the dealership.”

Fifty new and used Ford vehicles sit on the dealership’s lot.

About half the customers live locally and the other 50 percent buy online, where they can choose from a full line of Ford vehicles.

Over the years Mr. Baird has seen the market change and today he sells more cars and SUVs than trucks.

His dealership sells a “couple hundred” vehicles a year and services about 3,000.

Mirroring nationwide sales, the Ford F-150 pickup truck remains the dealership’s bestseller, according to Mr. Baird.

Maintaining relationships with customers and adjusting to the needs of the clientele have contributed to the dealership’s longevity during his ownership, he said.

“After the 2008 recession, we put a car wash out for the public,” Mr. Baird said.

The garage services all makes and models and provides vehicle detailing.

“That’s basically how we survived the last recession,” Mr. Baird said.

Seven people have owned the dealership over the past century.

In 1926, Harry and David Smith bought the business and named it The Marshall Motor Co.

In 1944, after Harry Smith died, his wife and her brother, John Delaplane, continued to run the dealership.

In the early 1970s, T.F. Pritchett owned the dealership.

Charlie Ebbets bought the dealership in 1976 and ran it until 1988.

Mr. Ebbets grew up in Marshall and can remember sneaking into the garage to look at the new 1949 Ford.

During the early years of the dealership, the cars came off the train in two parts and workers assembled them inside the dealership, according to Mr. Ebbets.

When he owned Charlie Ebbets Ford Inc., he rented vehicles for inventory from the corporation.

“When I was there, I sold to Senator John Warner and his son John Jr., the Mellon farm, most of the farms in the area,” Mr. Ebbets said. “Willard Scott used to come by and sit around and chat with all the people.”

In 1979, Interstate 66 opened through Fauquier and the dealership encountered challenges.

“A good portion of business came from Linden and Front Royal,” Mr. Ebbets said. “When they built 66, they didn’t come by anymore.”

Mr. Ebbets said he had planned to move the dealership in 1979, but “business slowed down because of the economy.”

State Sen. Charles Colgan of Manassas ran the dealership for a year in the late 1980s.

Mr. Baird, who has operated Marshall Ford for the last 26 years, hopes to continue to serve customers through future changes.

“We will just keep growing and adjusting to clients as the Marshall service district grows,” Mr. Baird said.
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