April 22, 2024

Former Harford County car dealer sells final property – Baltimore Sun

Former car dealer Mike Martino has sold his seven-acre parcel on Belair Road in Fallston to Jones Junction, which already was leasing part of it as a Kia dealership, according to a news release. The parcel includes the Jones Kia dealership and Royal Farms convenience store, gas station and car wash.

“There’s nothing like local ownership,” Martino said in a statement. “That’s why I am happy to be selling my land to a family company, a company owned by my friends and fellow car dealers.”

The sale marks the end of Martino’s 45 years in automobile sales in greater Bel Air, which began in 1978 and included his participation in and presidency of the Bel Air New Car Dealers Association, which held 60 multiple-dealer public parking lot sales between 1981 and 2014.

“I had a great run,” said the 73-year-old Martino in a statement. “It’s sad to think that it’s ending, but I’m proud of what I accomplished, what my friends at Jones Junction have accomplished, and especially what all of us local dealers did, together, as the Bel Air New Car Dealers Association.”

The Bel Air New Car Dealers was founded by Don Kilby and Vernon Jones, owners of what was then called Jones GMC, Chrysler, Plymouth, Toyota, Datsun and Subaru, according to the release.

“The idea behind it was to convince Harford County residents to buy their cars here, rather than in Dundalk or Towson or Cockeysville,” Jones’ son, Danny, said in a statement. “My dad had seen an alliance of car dealers in Alcoa, Tennessee, outside Knoxville, known as the Airport Motor Mile. He and Don Kilby realized that what that group did in Tennessee, we could do in Bel Air, too.

“It was a great idea,” Danny Jones said. “With the help of Bob Callahan, we started holding joint sales at the Harford Mall, which itself was new at the time. I think the first sale was in 1981 and it became an annual event — the Bel Air New Car Dealers Sale — in 1987.”

In 1978, Martino took over Village Volvo-Fiat dealership. “I thought Fiat was going to be the big hit, because we were selling only 36 Volvos each year,” Martino said. “It turned out that Volvo was my big hit. By the end of the 1990s, we were selling over 700 Volvos a year, and we had achieved a rank of the 25th largest Volvo dealer in the entire country.”

In 1980, he bought the local Dodge franchise in Bel Air and built the building where Jones Kia is now. The Dodge dealership changed hands several times but Martino kept ownership of the land and the buildings, the release said.

“It was Lee Iacocca of Chrysler who showed me how to make car sales fun,” Martino said.

In 1999, Martino sold his Volvo dealership to a national chain of dealers and opened Mike Martino’s American Auto Center in Fallston, which became a Kia dealership, later sold to Thompson Automotive and then to Jones Junction.

The Bel Air New Car Dealers Sale eventually moved to the Festival at Bel Air in 1993 and the association held its last sale on Labor Day weekend in 2014 before folding, “doomed,” Martino said, by the rise in internet car sales, and bankruptsies and ownership instability in the automotive industry.

“I just want to say ‘thank you’ to the entire greater Bel Air and Harford County community for all the support and business they gave me and my family for so long,” Martino said.


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