BRISTOL – Michael Hamelin said the biggest challenge in running an independent automobile shop is keeping oneself educated on the numerous trends and changes that have come with the evolution of vehicles.
Hamelin & Sons Automotive Repair at 64 West Street celebrated their success in overcoming that challenge for 75 years of business, Thursday. Michael is a third generation owner of the business and his nephew, Joe Hamelin, is set to inherit its operation in due time. Joe is the son of Michael’s brother, Dave.
“As near as we can place it, the business started in October of 1946,” said Michael. “We’ve always been in this location and it started with a small two bay garage and over the years we’ve had three expansions of the building. The first expansion was around 1955, then 1985 and then 2001. We were originally gasoline and repairs. We eliminated gasoline and now it’s emission and repairs.”
Michael said the business’ specialties have changed a little over the years depending on who was on staff and owning the business at the time.
“For a while it was automatic transmissions then it was carboateur rebuilding,” said Michael. “Now, it’s obviously into emissions repairs and that type of stuff. It varied. Basically, we’ve always done general repairs and service.”
Michael said that his grandfather Ernest and Uncle George started the business.
“My father joined them but he was not an owner until 1978 and that’s when my uncle retired. Ernest had retired previously. In 1984, my father retired, then it was my brother Dave and myself. My brother just retired in January of 2019.”
Currently, Michael runs a staff with four employees. He makes up the fifth worker on site.
“I’ve been working here since I was 14-years-old,” said Michael. “Most everyone here started sweeping floors and worked their way up.”
Michael said that hardest thing about the business is staying educated.
“Being an independent (automotive repair shop), we’re a small business. Trying to stay educated is always on us and we don’t have a corporate backing. We’re not a dealership. Keeping up with the technology, even back when my father was here, he had to keep up,” said Michael. “Our greatest success has been longevity and the loyalty of our customers.”
Michael said he’s maintained his certification as master mechanic for 45 with Automotive Service Excellence since he first received it when he was 21.
Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce President Cindy Bombard and Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu both said that businesses such as Hamelin and Sons were the backbone of American Main Streets across the country.