BEVERLY -- In a deal between two of the oldest auto dealerships on the North Shore, the Kelly Automotive Group is buying Thomas Ford on Rantoul Street.

Kelly Automotive Group president Brian Kelly said he is purchasing the business from Thomas Ford principal Steve Leary, but is leasing the land from him and will not stay there permanently.

“It’s a good spot, but in the next two or three years I will be looking to relocate the dealership,” Kelly said.

Leary did not return a call seeking comment. 

A car dealership has operated on the site, at 211 Rantoul St., since Toby Ford opened in 1965. The name changed to Thomas Ford when it was purchased by Thomas Mulcahy in 1969. Leary, who worked as a sales manager at Thomas Ford, bought the business in 2001.

The sale to Kelly will become official on Thursday, when the dealership’s name will change to Kelly Ford.

The dealership will become the 11th location for Kelly, whose late father, Roland, started the business in 1965 with his first store farther down Rantoul Street.

It will be the first Ford dealership in the Kelly Automotive Group. Kelly said he first tried to buy Thomas Ford 30 years ago. “I’ve always been a Ford fan,” he said. “I have several import franchises and I like to stay diversified.”

Kelly also owns a Nissan dealership on Cabot Street in Beverly. He said he might eventually move that dealership to Route 1 and move the Ford dealership to Cabot Street.

Kelly said he intends to keep all of Thomas Ford’s approximately 30 employees, and plans to add another 10 or so employees in the next six months. He is planning to sell more heavy-duty and commercial trucks at the site, he said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or

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