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Atkinson retiring from car business

By Michael Butler

May 6 will have a different feel for Ben Atkinson. He will be a retired man. The transfer of ownership of Ben Atkinson Motors becomes official this week.

Ben and his wife Gwen have run the family business in Tallassee for the past 28 years.

"It was Town and Country Motors that we bought out," Atkinson recalled . Town and Country was owned by Ronnie Baynes and Bobby Payne. "I came to Tallassee in December of '86, but it was approved in March of 1987."

The business today has 40 employees including the NAPA store that will become the location for the Chrysler dealership. The Ford dealership will remain next door on Gilmer Avenue.

I always asked (Gwen) have you thought about retiring. She'd say, 'Find it in the Bible where somebody retired and we'll retired.' They worked until they died," he recounted. "Then I developed another aneurysm. The Lord's let me live through two operations. Now I have another one. This one's not operable.

"While I have my health and can see what I think hopefully is the best for the family and the town, I can go ahead and make preparations to change ownership. Tallassee's going to be proud."

The new owner is Jesse Liechty, who owns Kia of LaGrange, Ga. and Kia of Auburn.

In all, Atkinson has 40 years in automobile industry. He spent 12 prior to his move to Tallassee in his hometown of Clanton.

"The only thing I knew (about Tallassee) was it was a little town on the way to Auburn to watch a ball game once in a while," he said.

Now Atkinson, who is 71, calls Tallassee home and has no plans to leave.

"I've got family here, church family. We feel blessed to be living here. The only thing negative that I can say is we look back too much instead of looking forward. We want to preserve what is past and not what the future may hold."

As for Atkinson's future, there really isn't a set plan. "I don't have a lake house, a beach house or chalet. I don't fish, hunt or play golf. My only hobby has been I love livestock and cattle."

Ben and Gwen will enjoy the time together. "She's been married to me for 52 years. We just enjoy each other. We don't go to a lot of functions. We love our church and our family."

Atkinson says that he will miss the "people" the most. "Seeing somebody that's got a problem that we can maybe help them. A lot of people that you help don't even own an automobile. There are needs everywhere."

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