The gift of small businesses

“Black Friday” is well behind us now, and there was even a day celebrating small businesses and encouraging consumers to purchase items from these entrepreneurs, especially those who are local.

The business people whom I hope to honor today probably did not witness a “bump” in sales on Nov. 30, but they are certainly important, not to only me personally, but to the community of Hubbard where their businesses are located and which they support in many ways.

They are all in the automotive and mechanical areas of sales and service, a realm in which I am only an infrequent visitor and certainly no expert. Thus, I rely greatly on the gifts from Michelle and Bob Pagley of Pitstop Auto Care, Tom Bray of Tom’s Automotives, Richard Goterba of Richard’s Klassie Kars, and Tim Enyeart of Tim’s Auto. All of these folks know that I can repair a comma or replace a semi-colon, but when it comes to car maintenance and repair, I am needy.

Why would I call their services “gifts” since I pay for them?

All of the good people named above are my friends. They do not merely provide me with goods and services; they treat me with courtesy, professionalism, respect, and honesty. I regard those last four items as “gifts” which I am grateful to accept.

I can give examples.

When I was traveling out of state, my car began to make noises suggesting brake problems. I located a dealership and was told a repair would cost “somewhere between $600 and $800, but it could be higher” if other problems were found. Since I was alone, I decided to risk returning to Ohio despite the service technician’s admonition that I was risking life and limb.

When I arrived home, I drove the car to Bob and Michelle at Pitstop. After Bob examined it thoroughly, he said that the problem was so minor that $25 would be more than enough to repair it, and my brakes were good for at least another year.

Another time, he spent six frustrating hours trying to figure out a battery problem unique to my car and refused to be paid for his time. “Hey, I was learning,” he said. “Now, I will be able to help another customer since I could not immediately help you.”

Tom Bray describes himself as a high school graduate who “got lucky” in building a successful business. His vocabulary surpasses mine easily, and he describes car batteries with terms like “parasitic.”

He quickly points out that there are actually two Toms in the name “Tom’s Automotives;” his longtime business partner is Tom Bata. When I described the intent of this article to him, he said, “That’s nice, but let’s talk about your wife’s car Here is my recommendation about floating battery chargers versus trickle chargers and other types.”

Despite a devastating fire a few years ago, Tom made the gutsy decision to rebuild, even though he has two other successful locations in nearby towns. “This is home,” he says modestly.

Richard Goterba and I met in first grade 57 years ago. The Goterba name might be familiar; Richard’s wife, Sue, is the township’s fiscal officer. His Klassie Kars (he confesses his spelling weakness) shares a building with Tim’s Auto.

When I approached Richard about purchasing basic transportation for a friend whose budget was limited, he frankly emphasized the longevity and reliability I could expect from vehicles more than their cost. Tim Enyeart’s work on our cars has always been outstanding. In fact, he let us purchase our own parts once online when he could not locate them through his distributors.

None of these people ever laughs at me when I ask stupid questions. Yet, I do give them permission to howl when I exit their places of business. (They assure me that they do not even chuckle.) This gives me yet another reason to appreciate their gifts year round.

Certainly, many of our communities are enhanced by similar businesses. These small businesses are “small” in name only. They are “large” in terms of the vitality they add to our cities, town and villages.

Williams is a Hubbard resident.