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Whalens wife buys first car at Milton Martin's Oakwood dealership
Promise by late businessman fulfilled with Prius purchase
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Don Sims, a sales consultant at Milton Martin Toyota, shows off a 2015 Toyota Camry in the showroom of the Toyota dealership in Oakwood on Friday. The business went from 45,500 square feet to about 82,000 in its move to Oakwood. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Milton Martin Toyota

Where: 3150 Milton Martin Way, Exit 17 off I-985, Gainesville

Phone866-256-3621

Website: www.miltonmartintoyota.com

In the early 1970s, Gus and Janelle Whalen made their first trip to Milton Martin Toyota, then located in downtown Gainesville, to buy a car.

They walked out of the dealership that day with the keys to a blue Toyota station wagon.

When the local dealership later moved to its Browns Bridge Road location, the Whalens visited again and again, buying a new car — an Avalon, a Camry — every 10 years or so.

Their loyalty to Milton Martin Toyota continues. Despite Gus’ passing in June this year at age 70, his wife made good on the late business leader’s promise to be the first customer at the newest location.

When the business opened its doors in its new Oakwood location Sept. 21, Janelle Whalen was the first to walk through the doors and buy a new car — a navy blue 2015 Prius.

“Our owners had a very deep connection with (Gus) ... he consistently was a loyal customer and had a very close connection with (owners) Mike and Ricky Martin, and that’s why he had always requested to be the first person to purchase a new vehicle at the dealership,” said Emily Hayes, advertising and public relations representative with Milton Martin Toyota. “We were grateful his wife wanted to honor that commitment. It was a special day.”

Gus Whalen was founder of the Featherbone Communiversity, the former CEO of Warren Featherbone Co., an author and speaker. His death left many friends and colleagues shocked and saddened.

Reached by phone Saturday morning, Janelle said buying the first car at the new dealership was “exactly what he would have wanted me to do. Gus had done a lot of research, and he read Consumer Reports ... and he loved Toyotas.”

When she walked in the doors of the dealership Sept. 21, Janelle said “they made it really easy. (Gus) had already talked to them about the car he wanted to get for me, and so I just showed up, and they showed me the car.”

She said salesman Mike Morrisey was very helpful.

“Their employees must be all very well trained,” Janelle said. “They do such a nice job.”

Hayes said the move from the Browns Bridge location — which has been closed since mid-September — has been a “big transition for all of us.”

For one thing, the business went from 45,500 square feet of space to about 82,000 in its new location off Exit 17 at Interstate 985.

The new headquarters features a customer lounge with television and a fireplace as well as additional service bays (“for quicker service”) and a small Chick-fil-A restaurant inside the waiting area.

Located on a new road in Oakwood between QuikTrip and Regions Bank, the dealership sells new Toyotas as well as a full line of used vehicles.

The Whalens, said Janelle, will always prefer a Toyota.

“It’s a great car,” she said, adding that “I don’t know about other Toyota dealerships but Milton Martin is a great place to buy a Toyota. They are so friendly. They are the kind of people you would like to have as your next door neighbors.”

Milton Martin Toyota

Where: 3150 Milton Martin Way, Exit 17 off I-985, Gainesville

Phone: 866-256-3621

Websitewww.miltonmartintoyota.com

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