25 years in business at Milan
Interest in cars turns into career

Mary Mattingly

What began as a hobby by “Boys From Indiana” bluegrass band member Jerry Holt, ends this month after 25 years in the car business as Milan Auto Sales. Jerry Holt is still heard on XM Radio today with the many successful albums and CDs recorded by the Milan based bluegrass group, who would park their tour bus on Main Street in Milan. Jerry could be seen serving the air brushed, ‘40’ Silver Eagle bus that made frequent appearances at the Grand Ole Opry, and once parked in front of the White House for President Reagan’s Christmas Pageant of Peace in 1988.

Pictured left, Jerry Holt is retiring from the auto sales business with a big sale this weekend.


Originally founded as the BFI Motor Company, Holt changed the name to Milan Auto Sales and moved up the street to the intersection of SR 350. To offset the expense of parking the big bus, he bought the lot. He then started with a small fleet of eight to 10 used cars to sell. Today, the 72-year-old auto dealer has some 50 vehicles for sale on the lot he owns.

While the “Boys” band ended 20 years ago, the auto sales business continued for Holt; however, a lot has changed since 1989. “In the last few years, we have had these big dealers such as Carmax take over, and it’s hard for the small dealer to compete. I go to the car auctions and get outbid by these, and it hurts smaller businesses like mine.”

Jerry was always a hands-on owner, and often said, “In order to sell a used car, you make it look like a new car.” Each car was meticulously detailed and gone through mechanically before it was ever seen on the lot. He said the easiest cars to turn over were Honda Civics. “They would sell quicker than any of them.”

Another change over time with the business is price. Nearly three decades ago a decent used car would go for $5,000 on average. Today, it’s more like $10,000. One plus over time, Holt observed, is these vehicles last much longer. “Years ago, 100,000 miles meant the end of a vehicle. But now we see them lasting past 250,000 to 300,000 miles. Cars are just better made, “ he said, and not just Hondas or Toyotas, but American made cars.

This Saturday, Holt plans to put his auto business behind him with a final auto and truck sale. He also hopes to sell the lot. In the meantime, Holt will continue to own the nearby Reservation Restaurant with his sons, and plans on turning his attention to gardening, fishing, raising chickens and spending more time with family. He and wife Rose have four children, Stan, Jeff, Greg and Laura Hountz, and 11 grandchildren.


Bill would allow alcohol at state fair

State Senator Jean Leising, District 42, has introduced legislation that would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at the Indiana State Fair. District 42 includes part of Ripley County., Adams and Laughery townships. Senate Bill 168 would end prohibition that has been in place since 1947. It was issued due to a littering problem. Leising suggests many Hoosier microbreweries and wineries, like local hotspots Lil’ Charlies Restaurant and Brewery and Ertel Cellars Winery, would feature their products at the state fair if the bill is passed.

“For number one, some publicity for us because we take a lot of pride in what we do, and to get people into the Batesville area,” Adam Ollberding of Lil’ Charlies said. “We would absolutely be interested in showcasing beers at the state fair.”

WRBI radio reports that provisions in the bill would allow those 21 years of age and older to consume alcoholic beverages in designated areas.

The controversial marriage amendment vote was delayed last week. HJR 3, formally known as HJR6 was heard in the Judiciary Committee on Monday, January 13. 

Chairman Greg Steuerwald heard over three hours of testimony prior to adjourning the committee without taking a vote.  Not taking a vote on a bill isn’t uncommon, according to State Rep. Randy Frye. “I’ve delayed a vote on legislation in the committee I chair, Veterans Affairs and Public Safety if I felt it was in the best interest of Hoosiers,” he said. Frye commented that this week will play a vital role in the fate of HJR3.  If the resolution isn’t voted on, the Speaker of the House could allow it to die in committee, assign it to another committee and take further testimony, or replace members of the Judiciary Committee opposed to the amendment. 



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