Edward Darling was immersed in the family trade from the day he was born. “The automobile business has been in my family since the early 1900s,” he says. “It was just something that I grew up with and was exposed to.”
Darling’s resume is extensive. He has worked for and managed his family’s dealerships and auto parts stores, owns his own car business, and has served as chairman of the board of St. Joseph Hospital for 20 years. But when asked about his career milestones, Darling mentions his family.
“I’ve been married to my wife for 51 years,” he says. “We have four children, six grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. Family is everything.”
The automobile industry is truly a family affair for Darling. He is the son of Owen Darling and Anna Quirk. His brother is John Darling—owner of several Darling’s car dealerships—and Jack Quirk Jr. of Quirk Auto Group is a cousin.
The former president and general manager of Downeast Toyota-Scion in Brewer, Darling has been semi-retired for the past three years. He lives part-time in Daytona, Florida with his wife, Mary Ellen, but still oversees Downeast’s day-today operations.
But a career in cars wasn’t always in the plans. Darling almost branched out from the family business after high school. He enrolled at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, with the intent to become a teacher. “But my wife—who was my fiancée at the time—and I decided we were going to get married,” he says. He decided he needed a more lucrative job.
Two years later he transferred to Husson College, now Husson University, to study business administration while working full-time for his family’s company. By the time Darling graduated in 1964, he and Mary Ellen had added two children to their family.
Darling says he is more active in the Husson community now than when he was a student. “Because of my work schedule while I was going [to school], I wasn’t very involved in the day-to-day activities of the college,” he says. “I just went to class and went to work.”
Darling is now a member of Husson University’s board of trustees. “When I was asked to join the board about five years ago, I was really enthused about Husson and what it was doing—providing quality education with jobs for Maine people,” he says. Husson recognized the Darlings’ contributions last October, when the first floor of the Living and Learning Center building was renamed the Edward O. and Mary Ellen Darling Learning Center.
After graduating from Husson, Darling and his small family moved to Connecticut for a job before moving back to Maine two years later so Darling could work at his father’s auto parts store in Lincoln. But it wasn’t long before he moved to Skowhegan to manage another store.
Then, in 1968, he settled in Bangor to run the car dealership owned by his father. In August 1971, Ed decided to venture out on his own when he opened Downeast Toyota in Brewer.
Downeast and Darling’s are often mistakenly associated because of Darling’s last name. “My brother and I are not in business together,” he says. “Because of the family name people sometimes don’t make the distinction between the dealerships [John and I] own. We are family, but we are competitors.”
Two of Darling’s children and a son-in-law are following the family tradition at Downeast Toyota. Daughters Kate Fraser and Francie Kelly are the human resources manager and the office manager of Downeast Auto Body, respectively. Francie’s husband Kevin serves as Downeast’s president and general manager. Darling’s other children, Susan and Edward Jr., also live in Maine but are not involved with the business.
Being the only dealership in Brewer has its pros and cons, Darling says. The competition in Bangor has a high amount of traffic on Hogan Road, with several Darling’s and Quirk dealerships dotting both sides of the street. “But if somebody takes the time to drive to Brewer, they’re pretty interested in looking at something,” he says. “So that’s an advantage.”
Despite the business rivalry, Darling‘s family remains very close. Reunions are another tradition for the Darlings. They’ve spent countless winters at Sugarloaf, and Darling can’t remember a Thanksgiving his family didn’t celebrate together. It’s these family roots that make Darling’s accomplishments more meaningful. “I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and work in the Bangor-Brewer community,” he says.
A copyright article from Bangor Metro.