Special Sections Reporter
A Legacy of Excellence
When Mike Ferris, the owner of Western Slope Auto, bought his first car -- a 1953 Mercury -- there was no such thing as satellite radios, heated seats, or built-in navigation systems. Car manufacturers have made vast technological leaps since then, but Ferris has leaned on old-fashioned values to run his dealership, which celebrates a century of doing business in Grand Junction this year.
Western Slope Auto began as a family-owned venture by Reed Miller Sr., in 1912. It was originally located on the bustling Main Street corridor, where the business transitioned through three different buildings to account for its growth. The dealership was known for its quality service from the very beginning, thanks largely in part to Reed Sr. and his son, Reed Miller Jr., who sold the dealership to Ferris.
"Reed was a remarkable example of generosity and thoughtfulness." says Ferris, who never saw the younger Miller without a coat and tie. After previously working at the Sill-TerHar Ford dealership in Broomfield, Ferris was looking to purchase a franchise in the Colorado Springs area during the late 1970s. When that deal fell through, Miller's business became available in Grand Junction, and Ferris jumped at the opportunity. A long-time Rotary member, and a man of upstanding character, Miller Jr. fully supported Ferris' interest in purchasing the Grand Junction dealership in 1979.
The corporate offices of Ford Motor Co. approved the transaction, with the condition that the business relocate from Second and Main to a new location with plenty of growing room. That new location, 2264 Highway 6 & 50, has been the home of Western Slope Auto for the past 30 years.
The dealership has played witness to the Grand Valley's own trials and tribulations, and managed to stand strong despite formidable odds. When Ferris started his tenure as owner, Grand Junction was in the midst of rapid growth due to the expansion of the oil and gas industry. When Black Monday hit in 1982, Exxon shut down its oil shale operations, and Ferris was presented with an entirely new set of challenges. He assumed the role of community leader, serving on the Economic Development Council, and became determined to make a positive impact on the community through his business.
"I wanted to plant roots." said Ferris. "I liked that I had a purpose, and the ability to affect outcomes in a positive way." Ferris has done just that. He has managed to successfully build Western Slope Auto to include the sale of Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and Toyota products, while raising a family and grooming his son-in-law to take over the business.
There have been numerous changes in the industry since Ferris became owner, especially with the arrival of digital media. While Western Slope Auto maintains an impressive online presence, Ferris admits that he much prefers the human element; the person-to-person interactions are what he enjoys most. Ferris has worked hard to ensure that customers and employees form a connection that transcends signing the dotted line on new purchases. Each customer is a potential customer for life.
Sensitivity and the appreciation for learning lie at the core of Ferris' business philosophy. When it came time to consider passing the torch of ownership on to the next generation, Ferris selected his son-in-law Kevin Davis after careful consideration.
"Kevin has proved to be capable, sensitive, and have the appreciation for continuing to learn and demonstrate growth. I wouldn't have selected him if it wasn't the right fit." In the age of giant corporations, there's something to be said about keeping a strong business within the family. Ferris jokes that selling to an outsider would have generated a larger profit, but that would have gone against everything that Ferris has worked so hard to build. He's proud that his grandchildren have the opportunity to build on the legacy that has been developed. Honesty, hard work, and commitment to the community are the family values that have continued to hold Western Slope Auto together during the past century.
For many Americans, buying a new car signifies a time of transition. The purchase of a first car, a car as a graduation present, and a family's first vehicle, all serve as significant milestones. Western Slope Auto prides itself on being a witness to those crossroads. As Ferris celebrates the centennial anniversary of his dealership, a magnificent milestone in itself, he notes that his ride of choice is no longer a '53 Mercury, but a classic '65 Ford Mustang convertible. Western Slope Auto drives forward into the future while proving, like Ferris, that dedication and excellence never go out of style.