Longtime Mountlake Terrace licensing agency closes its doors

McMahan License Agency on 56th Avenue West is now closed.

A message from a reader alerted us: “McMahan License Agency closed in Terrace. I was shocked when I went to get tabs. That was our go to…”

We reached Pat McMahan, who has operated McMahan License Agency since 1997. McMahan was taking a well-deserved vacation but was happy to talk about the closure, which was effective April 7.

“Closing it down was the hardest decision I ever made,” McMahan said.

The bottom line, he said, is he wants to focus on the insurance business. He owns Plaza Insurance, located around the corner from the now-closed license agency. And, at age 61, he would like to have a more flexible schedule than the license agency allows.

“It just became clear that it was more than I wanted to manage,” he said.

Still, he admitted he has “really mixed emotions” about the decision. He knows the licensing office was a popular place, noting proudly that it had the highest-scoring Google reviews of any licensing agency in Washington state.

Vehicle licensing offices are contracted through the county auditor and authorized by Washington State Department of Licensing to perform vehicle and vessel title and licensing services. Vehicle licensing offices handle tabs, boat decals, new license plates, reports of vehicle sale or transfer of ownership, vehicle/boat registrations, trip permits, replacement titles, and disabled parking placards or tabs.

Pat McMahan

When word began to spread that his agency was closing, “so many folks came in and said ‘No, you do not have permission to do that,'” McMahan joked.

McMahan succeeded his dad Patrick McMahan Sr. in running McMahan License Agency. The elder McMahan, who died in 2013 at age 83, was known as the father of Mountlake Terrace for his work to found the city, including serving three terms on the city council. (Read more on his life here.)

According to Pat McMahan, his father started in insurance, then began working for Tom Allen, who owned Plaza Insurance Inc., located in a building at 22905 56th Ave. W., which is now a dental office. In 1964, McMahan Sr. also became a vehicle licensing agent, which at the time — according to Pat McMahan — was a mostly seasonal, six-week business because the state’s vehicle licenses all had to be renewed at the end of the year. The agency operated out of the Lucky Food Store (predecessor to the now-demolished Roger’s Marketplace) and then Albertson’s.

“In the ’70s, Pat Sr. left Plaza and started McMahan Insurance Agency,” Pat McMahan said. “He bought the vacant lot west of U.S. Bank, had an office trailer and hoped to build an office building, but couldn’t ever get the zoning variance needed to fulfill that dream.” From there, Pat Sr. leased units near the Mountlake Terrace Post Office. Pat McMahan joined his father in the insurance business in 1990,  and in August 1992, they moved to where the licensing building is now located, at the corner of 56th Avenue West and 230th Street Southwest.

“Licensing was still not booming but it was year round and still coexisted with the insurance business,” Pat McMahan recalled.

In the late 1990s, the younger McMahan said, he was able to purchase the Plaza Insurance building, and “not long after I convinced Tom Allen to sell Plaza Insurance.” McMahan’s insurance business then moved to the old Plaza Building. “A few years later, we moved the insurance over behind the licensing unit and sold the Plaza Building to the dentist,” Pat McMahan said.

The corner building includes two units connected by a breezeway– one where Plaza Insurance is located and the other that housed the licensing business. Pat McMahan said he isn’t sure yet what the future of the empty building holds — possiblities include expanding to use the whole  building or leasing one of the units.”The next year should help me figure out those details,” he said.

There is good news, however, for those who hope to still buy their vehicle or vessel license tabs in Mountlake Terrace. Pat McMahan said that the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office, which oversees contracting with licensing agencies indicated “their intention is to have a Moutlake Terrace office. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future there will be a Mountlake Terrace location,” McMahan said.

Meanwhile, you can find a map showing the location of other licensing agencies nearby here.

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. I have used your agency for years. I was going to go today and was checking for your hours when I discovered you are closed. I am sorry to hear that.

    Thank you for your service.

    Midori Vance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.