Charles ‘Ed’ Mullinax dies at 85
Lorain County car dealer became legend in auto industry
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.
“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.
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.