Here's the story from The Leeds News:Lora Carroll/The Leeds News
When seasoned locals think back to the city of Leeds over 50 years, many can remember trips to Pioneer Hardware for tools and supplies, outings to The Pants Store for clothing, visits to McKinnon or Patterson Pharmacy when sick and of course, a stop off or pull to Murray's Garage if the car needed servicing. These and only a handful of other businesses in the area have managed to weather the test of time.
In fact, Murray’s Garage and Wrecker Service is celebrating its 50th Anniversary as a family-owned business in April and owners Murray and Chip Ash are delighted to reach the milestone.
Murray opened his garage doors to the public in 1959 and has not closed them since. He said there have been times in the past when many thought they were actually opened 24-hours a day because he and the employees did not rest until the job was done.
“Daddy started April 1, 1959,” said Chip. “He was in a little shop right across from the telephone company. He was there for a couple of years until this location came up for sale.”
Murray's Garage moved to Ninth Street and since then, Murray has continuously added on to the location.
“We have been steadily going all along,” said Chip.
Murray bought his garage after returning home from the 34th Infantry Regiment in the 24th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. While in the Army, he worked with engineers and later moved to the Motor Pool.
He was also a mechanic. Murray got a chance to go to school on the G.I. Bill and during that time he learned about automatic transmissions. Then for a few years, he worked at several garages in the area, but always wanted to be out on his own.
“When I was a kid I would think of doing this,” said Murray. “I might be plowing a mule or something, but I would also think of what I was going to do someday.”
Murray said back then he would walk a mile to Leeds to work at a similar business for $5 a day.
“I was just glad to get it,” he said, adding it was hard work, but it taught him to make his way in life. “I used to say I have to do a day and a half every day to ever amount to anything,” he said.
Murray’s offers every automotive need except tire work. They have a full-service body shop, frame machine, wrecker service and more. “We do it all,” said Chip.
They also have two wrecker and impound lots in both Leeds and Moody. The wrecker service operates a 12-wrecker fleet and will work pretty much any accident on the road including 18-wheelers.
Running Murray's Garage has been a sort of family affair. Seven members of the Ash family have worked at the location since it opened including Murray, Chip, Murray's late wife Gaye, Murray's daughter Susan Cooch and Chip's wife Tracy along with their son Matthew and daughter Emily.
“I started down here when I was probably seven years old,” said Chip. “Back then I was pushing brooms and I just grew up doing things at the shop.”
“When Chip came along, that was probably the proudest day of my life,” Murray said. “We tried to get him to go to college. The teachers would tell him that he would not be able to get a job and Chip would say I've got a job waiting on me. He has been here ever since.” Chip said he would work for another 50 years if he had it left in him, joking that he is 47 now and not sure if that will actually happen.
Murray's has 20 part-time and full-time employees. Some have been with the company nearly as long as it has been open. Murray added that Sandra Eden has worked at the shop for over 25 years and Clyde Kelly has been with them for 45 years.
Murray said Kelly is a good one and always has been. “He would never get mad, even if he had to,”said Murray. “He makes a good wrecker man, too.”
Murray and Chip said they couldn't even start to guess how many customers they have had over the years, but both agreed that if it was not for their committed employees and patrons they would not be where they are today. “Thank you all,” said Murray. “We've had good help and tried to do just about anything anybody wanted done. They used to say, years ago, if a mechanic quit with something half torn down that we could finish it.” “We have had a good business over the years,” added Chip.
Murray's Garage is located at 209 9th Street NE and can be contacted at 699-6651.