Changes At The Top For McKenna Ford

The deal closed June 10 as a California auto dealer took over Mike McKenna’s Ford dealership on Kailua Road after three decades.

Jay Gill reportedly will rename the business Windward Ford of Hawaii, but the “McKenna” part will likely linger in people’s minds long after the ownership switch at the Cape Cod-style showroom and car lot on 725 Kailua Road.

The cigar-chomping, baseball-capped McKenna, now 81, has been a fixture at the site and also at local schools, starting in 1996 with Kalaheo High’s Project Graduation.

That’s the first time he donated a grand-prize car to the senior class party as an attendance motivator. Word spread of its success, and the car giveaway became a tradition at schools all over Oahu. Soon after came his one-year, four-wheeler gift to each Hawaii State Teacher of the Year. He convinced other dealers to follow up by providing cars for honorees from all seven school districts.

McKenna added the Spirit of Giving to the Schools program by donating $100 to selected schools for each new car sold at his business. That project eventually amassed a fund of more than $1 million in unrestricted cash for hundreds of Hawaii schools.

Then there was the dog patrol by the late Hana Girl and current spokesdog Hana Boy, plus all the other favored pets and orphaned pups that have trotted through the showroom. McKenna partnered with Hawaiian Humane Society to host pet adoption days in Kailua along with many other efforts.

Gill, who runs five Mainland dealerships, hired Aiyaz Dean as general manager of Windward Ford, but will likely retain most of McKenna’s staff. Gill also will offer free safety checks to all military car owners and spouses.