Charles ‘Ed’ Mul­li­nax dies at 85

Lo­rain County car dealer be­came leg­end in auto in­dus­try

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - ICYMI - By Richard Pay­erchin rpay­erchin@morn­ingjour­nal. com @MJ_Jour­nalRick on Twit­ter

Charles “Ed” Mul­li­nax, a Lo­rain county car dealer who be­came the largest Ford seller in the coun­try, died Aug. 4 in Port Or­ange, Fla. He was 85.

An Army vet­eran, Mul­li­nax pur­chased his Amherst deal­er­ship and be­gan sell­ing Fords in 1970.

He grew to be­come a leg­end in the in­dus­try, in­vent­ing “one-price” sell­ing with the best price dis­played on the car wind­shields.

Mul­li­nax later would own the Dragon Ranch golf course on state Route 58 and when he sold his deal­er­ships, they be­came Au­toNa­tion, which still op­er­ates in Amherst, West­lake and other com­mu­ni­ties.

A na­tive of El­li­jay, Ga., Mul­li­nax spent most of his life in Ohio.

He was 37 when he be­came Lo­rain County’s new­est car dealer on Route 58 near the Ohio Turn­pike in Amherst.

“It was a real good op­por­tu­nity and I felt this par­tic­u­lar deal­er­ship was in the

cen­ter of the county which is a real growth area,” Mul­li­nax said in a Morn­ing Jour­nal ar­ti­cle from May 17, 1970.

Mul­li­nax be­gan grow­ing and grow­ing, adding a ser­vice de­part­ment to the 16acre com­plex and even­tu­ally, build­ing the world’s largest in­door car show­room.

His slo­gan, “Ed Mul­li­nax is a friend of mine,” was known across north­ern Ohio.

Mul­li­nax at one time was a larger than life fig­ure who

re­mained a coun­try boy, said Tony Gallo, pres­i­dent of the Lo­rain County Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Grow­ing up, Gallo also knew Mul­li­nax’s sons, Larry and Jerry.

Mul­li­nax be­came na­tion­ally known, bring­ing at­ten­tion to Lo­rain County, and he de­vel­oped a strong lo­cal con­nec­tion in part be­cause Ford Mo­tor Co. had so many work­ers at its plants in Lo­rain County, Gallo said.

Lyal Pritt, 74, be­gan work­ing with Mul­li­nax in 1979.

The two had a com­mon bond in their ser­vice as Army para­troop­ers and Pritt said they be­came life­long friends.

Pritt started re­con­di­tion­ing and clean­ing cars, then moved into sales two years later.

“He al­ways gave peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity,” Pritt said. “All you can ask for is op­por­tu­nity.”

Mul­li­nax paid bet­ter than other deal­ers, re­warded his em­ploy­ees and gave them chances to move up in the busi­ness, Pritt said.

His fam­ily all worked for Mul­li­nax at some time and his son, Den­nis James Pritt, con­tin­ues to work for Au­toNa­tion in West­lake.

“I ended up be­ing gen­eral man­ager there at Amherst, start­ing from the car wash,” Pritt said.

The sales added up for a rea­son.

An in­no­va­tor

“The big­gest thing Ed ever did, when I say he was an in­no­va­tor in the busi­ness, he started the oneprice,” Pritt said. “That’s why it was so easy to sell cars for Ed.”

Mul­li­nax wanted to treat ev­ery­one the same, Pritt said.

If a cou­ple came in to buy a car, they could send their 18-year-old daugh­ter in three weeks later to buy an­other car and pay the same price, he said.

“He didn’t think you should take ad­van­tage of any­body, and that’s why it worked so well,” Pritt said. “You didn’t please ev­ery­body, but you cer­tainly pleased a lot of peo­ple by do­ing it that way.”

Gallo agreed and said Mul­li­nax re­mains an in­flu­ence on car deal­ers in north­ern Ohio and across the coun­try.

“A lot of those guys in the area, they learned at the feet of the mas­ter and that was Ed Mul­li­nax,” he said. “That whole one-price, no hag­gle pric­ing that he started was adopted by a ma­jor­ity of car deal­er­ships, not just here, but every­where.”

Mul­li­nax gave to many area char­i­ties with gifts peo­ple no one ever knew about, Pritt said.

De­spite his busi­ness suc­cess, Mul­li­nax re­mained hum­ble and drove Ford pickup trucks; his wife con­tin­ues to drive a 2009 Ford Fo­cus, Pritt said.

To look at him, one could not tell if Mul­li­nax was “a pau­per or a gazil­lion­aire,” he said.

“He was not flam­boy­ant at all,” Pritt said. “His big­gest vice was horses and play­ing golf.”

Pritt would travel with Mul­li­nax rac­ing horses across the east­ern United States and Canada.

Mul­li­nax’s golf game was above av­er­age, but not great, although Mul­li­nax loved the game, he said.

Later in life, Mul­li­nax spent win­ters in Florida, but spent most of his sum­mers in Ohio.

He did not re­turn this year due to ill­ness, Pritt said.

Mul­li­nax will have a Mass of Chris­tian Burial on Aug. 10 in Florida and pri­vate burial in Cape Canaveral Na­tional Ceme­tery in Mims, Fla.

In lieu of flow­ers, his fam­ily asked for do­na­tions to be sent to Hal­i­fax Health Hos­pice, 3800 Wood­briar Trail, Port Or­ange, Florida, 32129, or a char­ity of their choice.

RICHARD PAY­ERCHIN — THE MORN­ING JOUR­NAL

This 1972 Morn­ing Jour­nal pho­to­graph shows auto dealer Ed Mul­li­nax at his Amherst deal­er­ship. Charles “Ed” Mul­li­nax died Aug. 4 at age 85 in Florida.

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