WARRENTON — Astoria Ford owner Dane Gouge said he hopes to be in operation at the North Coast Retail Center in Warrenton by December, if not sooner.
Gouge, who signed a purchase and sale agreement with the retail center in 2012, closed on more than 6 acres at the corner of Ensign Lane and 19th Street earlier this month. Even though the dealership is changing cities, Gouge said he plans to keep the same name.
“We’ve worked really hard to push the Astoria Ford name,” he said, adding only a few people have taken issue with the name. “It would be really tough to change that.”
Gouge said the location at the retail center, across Ensign Lane from Costco and adjacent to a planned Wal-Mart, provides 10 times the traffic as his Astoria location. His new location will include a large showroom and service center, with a separate building for auto detailing, car storage and parking on the remainder of the site. The entrance to his dealership would be located across from the proposed exit for the Wal-Mart.
“For me, it’s more exciting to have your own instead of paying a lease payment,” said Gouge, who leases his current location on West Marine Drive from Ray and Ruth Birdwell. “It’s pretty much like owning your own home.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a wetland fill permit in September for Gouge’s new location, and groundwork started in November. Gouge said crews, under general contractor Rickenbach Construction, hope to pour foundation later this week and erect the main building in July or August.
Gouge has said the maintenance at his Astoria location is a challenge, and that the new location will improve the customer experience with a state-of-the-art facility.
Joining the migration
Astoria Ford is the last major car dealership to leave the city. Ocean Crest Chevrolet (2004) and Lum’s Auto Center (2008) left their old spaces in Astoria and built new in Warrenton, which is also home to a Kia dealership.
Gouge, originally from Port Angeles, Washington, moved to Astoria from Centralia to work at Birdwell Motors in 1997. In 1999, Birdwell Motors was acquired by Boyland Auto Group, owned by former professional baseball player Dorian Boyland.
“Dorian pretty much took me under his wing and helped me obtain the store,” said Gouge, who bought Astoria Ford in the early 2000s.
Over the years, he has gone from having the best to the worst facility for an auto dealership, Gouge said, as other dealers have left their old locations to build new in Warrenton. The former Ocean Crest Chevrolet in Astoria is now Fort George Brewery’s Lovell Room, and the former Lum’s Auto Center is on a city block with interest from developers wanting to build apartments.
Up for sale
The Birdwells have Gouge’s current location, including 668, 710 and 750 W. Marine Drive, up for sale at $3.5 million, including 40 acres of mostly submerged land on Youngs Bay, 3.64 acres of buildable land and more than 30,000 square feet of building space between the showroom and a larger, vacant building next door.