For nearly a half century, vehicles have been sold along West Fond du Lac Street under the “Baird” flag.

   But no longer.

   As of this afternoon, Lee and Katie Baird have sold their dealership to Homan Auto Group.

   With the addition of the GM dealership at 822 W. Fond du Lac St., this means that Homan now sells all three major U.S. auto brands within a two-block stretch in Ripon.

   In fact, the campus for Homan — which is based out of Waupun — is nearly contiguous, with the now-former Baird property and the existing Homan site almost touching.

   But that doesn’t mean the businesses will be completely merged together.

   The GM dealership historically owned by the Baird family will remain in place. The same service department will continue to operate there, and nearly all existing employees will stay on following the transition.

   Some changes are on the horizon but they’re additions, not subtractions, to the business that’s operated at that site for many years, according to Mark Homan of Homan Auto Group, who is excited about the acquisition.

   “This wasn’t in the plans, but GM [came to us on behalf of Lee and said], ‘Mark, this is the one that’s right for you,’” Homan said. “... GM wanted us to have it. That made me feel good.”

   Lee Baird, meanwhile, believes Homan Auto is the right owner to continue his family’s legacy in Ripon.

   “I think that they have the right family, community values and have the same philosophy that we’ve always had,” he said. “[I think] that they’ll do a good, ethically correct job serving the community.”

   The transition in ownership has been a long time coming, even if news of the sale is new.

Read the full story, as well as a second story about the Baird family's years of ownership, in the Sept. 5, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.