This past summer, Thomas Montefusco of Tilden Car Care Center experienced every business owner’s worst nightmare: a fire inside his auto repair shop which completely burned everything inside it.
For 52 years, Tilden Car Care Center has been a family-run business: it was passed down from his father and now Thomas manages it with his brother, Pat. Essentially, Thomas’ entire life has been spent watching the shop prosper. Also, his 83 year-old mother still does the books! In a way, you could say this building represented his second home. On Friday, July 26, 2013, at 2:40pm, Thomas “watched the entire shop burn to nothing” after it started from changing a fuel pump and quickly ignited the six cars in the bay “like matchsticks within minutes.” Luckily, the bay doors dropped and the fire did not spread to a street-wide event.
Thomas resisted defeat and instead of closing their doors indefinitely, or even for a few months while repairs were happening, he fought to persevere. He says he “had the choice to lay down and give up, but it was important to stay a thriving business for [his] community, for all [his] employees with families.”
Thomas managed to reopen the business 6 days later, thanks to the support of his loyal customers. Someone got him in contact with the owner of a vacant 4-bay shop down the street where he could rent space while his shop was being restored. A different customer lent him a mobile home he could use as an office and he did just that, in the parking lot of his burned shop. Another customer helped out with the landscaping outside the trailer to make it more presentable and inviting, despite the burned rubble a few feet away. The town also supported him by speeding up permits to hurry the process and help get the shop back into business as soon as possible.
Honored and touched by all the support from the community, Thomas noted, “it shows how well we ran our business over the years…[we have] a tremendous customer following.”
Amazingly, Tilden Car Care Center was able to sustain 80% of its original business in light of a smaller rented shop and changing its location down the street. Thomas is the first to admit he is a “very controlling manager” but he “had to have great faith in people,” and is happy he did.
Owning and running a small business is no easy feat. The long hours, constant problems and temptation to cheat are everywhere. Thomas wisely stated, “You don’t get rich [being honest] but you treat people the way you want to be treated and it comes back tenfold in support.”