Rich Hartman sells part of car business to local managers

Damon Gleason and Allen Erickson

Corrected Aug. 11 — Aberdeen Auto Sales, not Affordable Auto Sales, was part of the deal

Two longtime managers for Five Star Dealerships in Aberdeen are taking ownership roles now that owner Rich Hartman has sold them a major piece of the business. Allen Erickson and Damon Gleason earlier this year purchased 40% of the dealerships from Hartman. Both were born and raised on Grays Harbor and both said they plan to stay here.

Erickson says he’s always loved cars. He started in the business as a lot attendant at 16 years old washing, parking, and maintaining them. Now 37, Erickson said he has worked his way through multiple career paths before landing at the top, “I was a technician, worked in the office, clerical, payroll, then I got into sales. I was an internet manager, finance manager, general sales manager and general manager.” His dad works at the East Aberdeen location as a finance manager. “I told myself if I was ever going to sell cars I was going to come over and sell for Rich,” said Erickson, who now runs the Buick-Chevrolet-Toyota dealership in South Aberdeen.

Erickson added, “I’m thankful for the opportunity and it is a huge deal. I mean most people do not get this opportunity. It’s really hard to own a franchise dealership without somebody like Rich giving me that chance. I’m very thankful that he has done that.” he said he plans to continue to maintain its stability and hopes to grow the business.

Damon Gleason manages the Ford-Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep store in East Aberdeen. The 43-year-old said he began his career selling cars while in college, “I literally dropped out of college to sell cars. Well, I left Grays Harbor College and was in business class and I couldn’t get the money from (a local bank) so I wanted to come sell cars to raise $4,000 to $6,000 and ended up just loving selling cars and doing it from there on out.” He said being able to buy into the local company is a dream come true, “That hard work in a small town, integrity, honesty, and your values have allowed this to happen. Because if you’re not like that in a small community you’re not going to last.”

Included in the deal is Aberdeen Auto Sales and the administrative offices in West Aberdeen.

Gleason says his goal is to maintain a great company, and a great partnership with Rich and Allen, “to keep the Harbor stable and keep the ownership local.”

With renovations planned for this year, he says we’ll see some big changes in East Aberdeen. “A whole new look, a whole new store, a whole new front end. This is going to be a full facelift.”

Hartman said he doesn’t plan on going anywhere either. He completed the deal for the Aberdeen dealerships at the beginning of the year. He posted to social media then: “Allen and Damon have acquired 40% of my stock in the Aberdeen operations. They understand the same principles that I do, and the future of the stores are in great (and younger) hands. I will continue in my coaching role, but I will take advantage of their new role as well.” In February, Hartman also sold 20% of his Bellingham Ford Lincoln store to the general manager there, Julian Greening.

He said the “free time” opened up by the new partnerships is quickly filled with other interests. Advocating for car dealerships across the state, Hartman is on the executive board of the Washington State Auto Dealers Association. He watches Olympia legislation for things like proposed taxes on vehicle sales and gas taxes. A big blip on his radar right now is the Clean Cars 2030 bill proposed by Representative Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), which seeks to ban the sale of fuel-burning vehicles by the year 2030.

Hartman came to the Harbor in 1997 when he purchased the Red Ralls Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealership and the Chevrolet-Toyota dealerships. He said during a Daily World interview 24 years ago that he knew he wanted to sell cars at age 15, and that his focus with the new ownership would be on customer satisfaction, “This is my reputation now,” he said at the time.

Rich Hartman

Rich Hartman