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Hillier Ford Closing Doors After 48 Years In Business
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After nearly 50 years in business in the area, the local Tom Hillier Ford dealership in Escalon along McHenry Avenue has closed its doors. It was sold to Ford, which opted to close down the location. Marg Jackson/The Times

A business that started in 1975 on Coley Avenue and moved to its location on McHenry Avenue in 1979 is closing its doors.

The Tom Hillier Ford dealership, which was taken over by son David Hillier, was due to complete its final service commitments earlier this month before shutting the business down.

David Hillier said the time was right to make the move; he sold the business to Ford and the company made the decision to shut the doors.

“I’m going to miss the business,” Hillier said, adding that he “very much enjoyed” his time in the auto sales/service industry locally and will especially miss the customers.

“Our customer base as a whole has been wonderful,” he said, noting that they get business not only from Escalon but also a wide array of surrounding communities, from Oakdale to Ripon, Modesto to Stockton, even as far as the foothills and Bay Area.

The dealership, started by his late father, was first on Coley Avenue, kitty-corner from the library. The move to 3000 McHenry was made in 1979.

“He retired in 2002,” Hillier said of his father. “Since then, I’ve owned it and enjoyed it. Now, essentially, I sold the franchise to Ford.”

He opted for that route as opposed to selling to another dealer.

“It was definitely a hard decision … we’re a family here,” he said.

Hillier added that the service center was winding down, trying to complete all warranty work and previously scheduled repairs during the first week of April in advance of the shutdown.

He also said the employees are “in high demand” by other dealerships throughout the area, as the Hillier Ford reputation of sales and service was excellent.

“This was a very high performing location,” he explained. “We had extremely high customer satisfaction numbers.”

The business closed just two years shy of 50 years in business. Founder Tom Hillier passed away seven years ago.

“I started fulltime when my dad retired,” Hillier added, and – at 44 – he has literally been a part of the business his whole life.

It will also take several months to tie up the various loose ends and finalize the changeover, so he will continue to be busy with that part of the process, though there will be no more sales or service at the location.

And while customers will be able to find service elsewhere at Ford dealerships, Hillier said there was plenty of emotion as the days wound down, with people stopping by, phone calls and emails coming in.

He also said the dealership was well-known for its huge American flag, a 20-by-30 foot Old Glory that flew over the business for years.

“It was 60 feet high; my dad was very patriotic,” Hillier said. “I loved it.”

It became a landmark of sorts for the business and was replaced several times over the years.

The firm had about 18 employees including sales, office management and the technicians.

“There’s a lot of things that I’ll miss,” Hillier admitted. “The family atmosphere, the people I work with and the customers.”

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One of the classics that was on display for years in the McHenry Avenue showroom at Tom Hillier Ford, this 1921 Ford Model T was known as a ‘Runabout’ and sold for $321. Marg Jackson/The Times