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Sunday, December 3, 2023
Dec. 3, 2023

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Port of Vancouver’s Orange sells auto repair business

Veteran employee buys Hoesly Eco Automotive

By , Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
Left: Butch Brawner of Hoesly Eco Automotive, left, and colleague Fernando Sanchez work on cars for customers Tuesday morning.
Left: Butch Brawner of Hoesly Eco Automotive, left, and colleague Fernando Sanchez work on cars for customers Tuesday morning. Amanda Cowan/The Columbian Photo Gallery

A Port of Vancouver commissioner has sold his auto repair business, citing increased demands on his time and a natural transition point in the shop’s 72-year saga.

Commissioner Don Orange sold Hoesly Eco Automotive, just off Main Street in the Hough neighborhood of Vancouver, to longtime employee Bill Murray in July.

Murray has worked at Hoesly since long before Orange bought the business a decade ago. He swept the floors back in middle school and was trained as a mechanic after high school.

“I grew up with the Hoesly family,” Murray told The Columbian. “I started in about 1985 when I was a kid sweeping floors and cleaning windows. … I came back in 2003 and been here ever since.”

Now, he said, running the place feels like a whirlwind.

“It’s always been my dream,” Murray said.

Operating since 1946 — and in its current location since 1978 — Hoesly Eco Automotive employs seven people, including Murray. Under Orange, it focused on repairs for hybrid and electric vehicles, and standard cars and trucks built domestically and abroad.

The business’s website states that it’s “passionate about helping green car drivers keep their hybrid in the best shape possible.”

Murray said he plans to continue that philosophy. He’s also hoping to open another Hoesly shop in Clark County within the next five years, he added.

“A lot of customers have been coming here for years, some decades,” Murray said. “We’re really busy. We’ve been lucky — very, very lucky.”

Orange was elected to the Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners in 2017. He ran on a platform that prioritized environmental protection and sustainable jobs.

Hoesly Eco Automotive made headlines during the campaign when Orange’s opponent for the commissioner seat, Kris Greene, circulated a flier accusing Orange’s business of spilling up to 1,000 gallons of toxic oil via a leaking underground storage tank. Orange refuted the claim, saying that the tank was removed and the site cleaned up before he took ownership of the business. Information from the Washington State Department of Ecology supported Orange’s statement.

Now, Orange expressed relief that he’s able to focus fully on his role at the port, which he said he considers a full-time job, without devoting 25 or 30 hours a week to Hoesly.

“It was that time of life. (Murray) was ready to do it, the port is challenging and it’s a learning experience,” Orange said. “The community was good to us. … I miss it as part of my identity as a person, as a small business owner.”

He’s devoting his newfound free time to “getting to know my wife again,” Orange said, as well as riding his bike and canvassing for primary election candidates Laurie Lebowsky, Tanisha Harris and Kathy Gillespie.

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Columbian staff writer