To claim an area makes up family requires deep roots, and the Hensons, who are celebrating 25 years in the car business this year, there are roots stretching back to the 19th century.
That kind of connection can mean only one thing — Madisonville is family.
Liz Henson said it’s not just an anniversary — it’s 25 years of memories, 25 years of relationships.
“This is family and friends; it’s a family of employees, it’s a family of customers, and that’s what it’s all about,” she said.
Part of the celebration included a ribbon cutting at a newly revamped Ford dealership, in conjunction with Operation KidSafe, which emphasized the Hensons’ community connection.
Henson Family Dealerships has spent 25 years in Madisonville, and the Hensons 25 years in the car business, but it started with a connection to this area.
“My grandfather was born here in 1897,” Fred said. “(Liz) grew up in Conroe in the horse industry, and she had a connection with the area through the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association and 4-H.”
“We started as a gas station,” Fred Henson said. “There were a series of buildings that P.M. Stanley worked out of, and if that was good enough for him, it was good enough for us.”
This was fortunate for the Hensons, because at that time, the only other option for them was Bay City, and since the family knew nothing about water, Madisonville was it.
Fred said it was the right move.
“We came here because of the opportunity, and our commitment was to become a member of the community and create opportunities for people — to pay it forward,” Fred said. “I think we’ve done that over the years. We’ve put people into business, like the Mule Barn, which we did for about 15 years and sold it to Nancy Gilmore, who was our manager. The Kawasaki store was another one of our deals, and Billy Terry ran it for us, and we were able to Billy into that business, and those are two viable businesses that Madisonville wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t have started them and paid it forward.
“For Liz and I, that’s what it’s all about — our community, and we all can be successful in our community,” Fred said.
Fred said they are not only involved with businesses, but very involved with organizations that cater to youth.
“We like to benefit the young people,” he said.
In the future, the Hensons will see a bit of change; the property which currently houses Atkinson Toyota will become the home for the Hensons’ Dodge dealership once the Toyota dealership completes its planned move to Huntsville. Then, Fred said it’s on the drawing board for them to build a new Chevrolet dealership next to the new home for Dodge.
When the Dodge store moves, the plans are to increase the size of the NAPA parts store, which also is owned by the Hensons.
“This is my home, he said. “We put down roots and grew it into a community tree. We employ a little more than 100 people in town. In this day and age, it’s difficult for the mom and pop stores to make it, but this is an excellent spot to be.”