Bob’s Automotive in Ridgefield celebrates 30th anniversary

Business hosting month-long food drive to honor milestone


After opening up shop as the new guy in town 30 years ago, Bob Ford has taken himself from a small-town outsider to a community staple in Ridgefield.

Bob’s Automotive in Ridgefield celebrated its 30th anniversary on March 1 with a party, but in honor of the three-decade milestone, the business is hosting a month-long food drive benefiting Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

Through the month of March, customers can donate non-perishable food items and receive a discount on their oil change.

“I got out of the Navy in January of ’93, and we’ve been planning on opening a shop up for the longest time,” Ford said. “We came here, but I’m from southern Indiana, and so nobody knew around here.”

Ford’s automotive ventures began out of his van, and he went mobile fixing up cars in the spring and summer of 1993. After that first summer, he bought a shop near the fairgrounds but a worker error caused the shop to burn down, Ford recalled.

“Our customers were calling the house that night, telling us not to quit, keep going, but I mean, we lost everything,” Ford added.

About a month later, Ford was driving through Ridgefield to buy parts at a Napa Auto Parts store but noticed someone walking into a vacant building with garage space.

“I seen a man walking through the door of this building, and I knew it was empty, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll stop and talk to him,’ ” Ford said. “And I talked to him, and that afternoon we rented this building and came in. … It was in pretty bad shape. The front parking lot was just gravel and dirt where they’d taken out the old gas tanks because this building used to be a Pontiac dealership and a Union 76 gas station that opened up in 1949. And so we redid it, and then we opened up here on March the first of ’94.”

Over the years, certain aspects of Bob’s Automotive have changed or gone, like towing and being the first U-Haul dealer in the “Birthplace of U-Haul.” Currently, Ford offers maintenance, engine and auto electrical service and more at Bob’s Automotive.

Ford said he has spent some time thinking about his three-decade milestone. When he and his wife, Priscilla, arrived in the small town of 900 people, Ford did not have any connections in Ridgefield, although his wife did.

“So, I was an outsider coming in, and I had to win the town over, and it wasn’t bad. They were pretty receptive. … It was kind of bumpy because I was the new guy, and new guys don’t just move into a small town in America and be accepted right away. So, after a while, we got to be a fixture down here, more or less.”

Now that he has an established downtown business and is a part of the community, Ford said his business model will never change — putting the customer first.

“We always put our customers first, and the town first,” Ford said. “We would never do anything that would bring discredit upon the community. … So I’ve always tried to do things that reflect well for Ridgefield in our business and try to keep the building cleaned up and presentable and make it look good because it is downtown.”

Ford believes that Ridgefield’s downtown has gone unnoticed in recent years with the massive growth the city is experiencing.

“You would think going from a population of 900 to 16,000 would make a big difference, but, unfortunately, a lot of people moving in still don’t know there’s a downtown down here because Ridgefield is still a bedroom community,” Ford said.

Bob’s Automotive is located at 327 Pioneer St., in Ridgefield. Call 360-887-8351 for more information, or go online at bob