MANCHESTER — Bob & Sons Automotive is celebrating 50 years in business, still at its original West Side location — 321 Kelley St.
On Wednesday, vintage cars graced the parking lot, a small sampling of a half-century’s worth of makes and models that customers have had repaired at the family-owned company over the years.
Company namesake Bob Poirier is retired, but he lives across the street and said he comes over daily to keep an eye on things. His sons still let him handle the money.
“He does the bank run,” said Ron Poirier, one of the sons.
Ron and his brother, Dennis, co-own the business. Ron manages the company, and Dennis does just about everything connected with auto repair, including diagnostics and engine work.
Ron’s son, Ian, 28, is the third generation of Poiriers to work in the business, and to round out the “family” in family business, cousin Marc Provencher is the service writer. The only non-family member of the team is Ed Lavallee, who has more than 30 years of automotive experience.
Ron said the equipment may be different and easier to use than when his dad started working, but one thing hasn’t changed. “We offer the personal touch,” he said.
Bob, who started working at what was then a Texaco station in 1951, bought the company with a partner in 1964, but his partner sold his share in 1969. It has been a Poirier family business ever since.
Ron grumbles a bit about having had to work at the station starting in his early teens, when summer seemed too short. But after graduating from the University of New Hampshire, he began to appreciate his apprenticeship.
“It was good for them growing up,” Bob said. It not only taught the boys the family business, but also kept them out of mischief for the most part.
Ron is pleased that his son, Ian, who tried out other career options after graduating from Penn State, has embraced the family business.
For many years, Bob & Sons was the only full-service station in the neighborhood, with people counting on the business for their weekly gas fill-up, Ron said. But after Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, when processing plants were out of commission and gas supplies shrank, prices spiked past $3 and fluctuated frequently.
Add to that the almost exclusive use of credit cards, which take a 3 percent fee per transaction, and the Poiriers made a difficult but necessary decision to stop selling gas. They expanded the service facilities and also started selling used cars as a sideline.
On Wednesday, much of company’s display space was taken up with vehicles representing each of the five decades of the business. The shiny vintage beauties were lent by Carroll Street Auto, which specializes in classic and vintage cars.
“My dad’s had a great following,” Ron said. “Most of the customers have stayed.”
At least one has been frequenting the business longer than the Poiriers have been associated with it.
“We’ve had one customer (come) here since 1949,” Bob said.
Customers remained loyal to Bob Poirier for reasons other than his business acumen, his son saidd.
“Over the years, he’s helped people,” Ron said.