LEXINGTON - Morrow County Grain Growers Inc. has purchased the NAPA auto parts stores in Umatilla and Boardman.

The company has acquired Umatilla Auto Parts and Boardman Auto Parts from Ed Brabham of Hermiston.

"We're excited about this because of the additional diversity for the company," said John Ripple, general manager. "It gives us a presence in those areas that should complement some of the things we do."

The names of the auto parts businesses will stay the same, he said, and no immediate changes are planned.

Morrow County Grain Growers is a farmer-owned cooperative based in Lexington. It operates farm equipment dealerships at Lexington and Wasco, has agronomy centers in Ione and Wasco and a propane business in Heppner. It also operates a feed and seed in Heppner, plus a bulk petroleum business.

Last year, the company acquired the NAPA store in Lexington, Ripple said.

The cooperative took over operations in Umatilla and Boardman on Jan. 1. Each store has three full-time workers.

"We retained most of the employees at those stores," Ripple said. "They did a good job for Ed, so they should do a good job for us."

Morrow County Grain Growers has been in business since 1930 and continues to expand. Ripple said the company employs almost 60 full-time workers.

"We're pretty excited about being able to continue to expand and continue to diversify," Ripple said.

Brabham said he was employed in farm equipment parts and service before he went into the auto parts business. He eventually owned three NAPA stores at one time. He bought the stores in Umatilla and Stanfield 15 years year ago. He opened the Boardman store in 1994, then closed the Stanfield store in 2000.

Brabham enjoyed his career, but now that he's retired, he's looking forward to spending more time hunting, fishing and traveling with his wife, Karen, who retired two years ago after working in the auto parts business with him.

"I just enjoyed the people, helping the customers with their needs," he said.

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