Story by Sarah Naron
When asked to tell the story of how their establishment came to be, many business owners speak of the deep-seeded desire to run their own company and years of painstaking planning that had to come before their business was able to open its doors. According to Gary Uptmore, a second-generation owner of Uptmore Motors, Inc., in West, however, his father’s foray into being a business owner started very differently.
“My dad was in the service in World War II,” Gary explained. “At one point in time, he was in North Africa and contracted malaria.”
Following his discharge from the armed forces, the elder Uptmore, whose name was Ernest A., was admitted to a VA hospital in Dallas to undergo treatment for the disease which he had fallen victim to. According to his son, “the doctors basically told him that he needed to find a profession where he could get out of the weather when he needed to,” a far cry from his own father’s work of farming and trading mules.
“Once he got out of the VA, he moved back home to work with his father,” Gary said. “With the blood of the mule trading, I guess, in his system, he’d buy a car and get it fixed up and sell it.”
Gary’s father ended up going into business for himself in 1946 – a period of time during which cars were in less than plentiful supply.
“My dad had the initiative to catch a bus to Detroit, MI,” Gary said. “He’d take a tow bar with him, and he’d buy two vehicles and drive one and pull one back to Texas. That’s how he started out getting inventory.”
Eventually, Gary and his older brother, Ernest F., each followed in their father’s footsteps and officially became part of the business in which they had grown up. For the majority of their clientele, however, ‘Ernest’ is not a name with which they are familiar.
“Most people know him by his nickname – Inky,” Gary explained. “He was born six weeks premature, and my grandfather was German and couldn’t say ‘incubator.’ So, he would say, ‘Let’s go see the inky.’ So, he’s been stuck with that nickname since birth.”
The brothers went on to buy out their dad’s share of the company, and in 2013, Inky made the decision to retire, leaving the younger brother fully in charge.
“I’ve been running it ever since,” Gary said. “My son works with me also, so we’ve got a third generation getting started.”
Of course, maintaining a successful company for three quarters of a century is not something that happens without its fair share of struggles. Throughout his time as head proprietor, Garyhas navigated challenges of his own – some of which resemble those faced by his father in the 1940s.
“For us, being in a small town, the biggest challenge has probably been keeping up with technology and keeping an ample supply of inventory,” he shared. “Since COVID, there’s a major shortage of nice, used automobiles.”
Despite its difficulties, the experience of running the company is one that Gary has found to be rewarding.
“The most rewarding part has been carrying on my father’s legacy,” he said. “That, and the fact that we’ve got a large part of our customers who are returning customers. We’ve got a gentleman who’s probably about my brother’s age – probably in his mid-to-late 60s – and he’s bought every one of his vehicles from us since he was 18 years old. They always return back to us to purchase their automobiles. Just seeing that we’ve built that type of reputation is rewarding.”
Like any proud West resident, Gary and his staff eagerly look forward to West Fest, the annual celebration of the town’s heritage, and the family has taken a hands-on approach throughout the years.
“My brother was in charge of beer sales at West Fest for probably the first 15 years,” Gary said. “He was an associate board director for almost 15 years. My wife has been an associate board director for, I think, five or six years. Uptmore Motors has provided convertible cars for Miss West and for organizations needing a car for the parade in the past.”
When asked to identify his favorite part of West Fest, Gary spoke of the opportunity presented by the festivities to revisit with individuals from the past.
“Old schoolmates and friends that have moved off throughout the years always get to come back for the event,” he said. “It’s just kind of a reunion of old friends and relatives. Just getting back together with the people you grew up with – that’s my favorite part of it.”
Among the aspects of living in the town of West that stands out to Gary is the temperament of the people who also call it home.
“It’s a small town – people are more welcoming and friendly,” he said. “The West school district has a lot of teachers that were homegrown here in West. It just kind of has that kind of small town feel. To me, that’s the biggest plus of all as far as the town of West – just the people and how you’re received and how you’re treated.”
Uptmore Motors, Inc., is located at 605 W. Oak St. in West. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday. Information on their current inventory and financing options is available online at www.usedbhphcarstx.com. For more information, please call 254-826-5852.