I was very excited when I purchased my first new car back in 1978. Married for only a few years and not yet a father, I was able to afford my 1978 blue Chevy Malibu Classic with the V-8, 307 cubic inch engine. I had learned early on that a buck or two used wisely could sometimes bear lots of fruit. So with this in mind, upon delivery of my new car at the legendary Farmer Dick Barone Chevrolet dealership, I asked my salesman who was their best mechanic. When he told me it was “Russ,” I took a walk back to the shop and sought him out. Being an outside salesman with a large territory, having a reliable car was crucial and when I met Russ it was short and sweet.
“Hi Russ, my name is Charlie. I just bought a new Malibu and Bill tells me you are the best guy here. When I have a problem, I need my car to be finished quickly and fixed right. So, please take this and I’d be appreciative if you would take care of me from now on. I handed him a $5 bill and he said, “Thanks, no problem.”
Whenever my car needed service I would go right to Russ. It all worked fine for about two years and then Russ decided to go on his own and open up a repair shop. I continued to use Russ at his new place and all was well. Then things got a bit complicated. In 1986, we moved 25 miles away, to our present home in New Jersey. Since I continued to work in the same territory, which was near Russ’ place, I could work out stopping there for minor things to be done. However, I knew that it just wouldn’t be practical to continue do so and I’d have to find a reliable mechanic closer to home.
Three years went by and in 1989, I was still dealing with Russ. My car was now 11 years old and running like a top. One morning, while driving in my neighbor-hood, I smelled a heavy odor of gas. I wasn’t about to drive all the way to Russ’ place so I stopped at my gas station and asked one of the guys who he could recommend. He told me to go and see Anthony Mongo, who was the son of his boss. The place was only a few miles away, in Delran, so I drove down a steep driveway to the tiny shop and pulled into one of the three bays where I was greeted by Anthony himself.
At that point, I had no idea what was wrong. If Anthony would have told me I needed a new fuel pump, I would have believed him. In fact, I was at this stranger’s mercy. Anthony looked under the hood, took out his ratchet and tightened something and said, “That’s it. You’re OK now.” When I asked him for the bill, he said not to worry about it and to have a nice day. After wonder-ing if I was hallucinating, I told him, “Buddy, you have a new customer. Anyone as honest as you is my kind of guy.”
Now, I visit Anthony at his “new” facility. Actually it was new in 1996 when he took the big step of changing from a renter of that cramped, 1,000-square-foot facility to the owner of a 4,500-square- foot building that he built from the ground up. It was a big financial step and he had his nervous moments but the growth of his successful business dictated the move. Three bays were simply not enough. Now there are seven. Of course, I never doubted that he’d be success-ful and I told him so. Easy for me to say! I have had the honor of having his friendship along with that of his dear departed “Uncle John,” who worked part time for Anthony for 25 years after he retired. Speaking of retirement, Anthony tried that about 20 years ago when his knee had to be replaced and he doubted if he’d be able to stay on his feet all day. However, he did so well after the surgery that he “un-retired,” he just works less than before. The slack is taken up by his daughter and other trusted long-time employees.
Anthony took care of my Malibu for a total of eight years. I sold that old guy after having it for 16 years and accumulating 207,000 miles. It still ran great. All of my subsequent cars have been cared for at Mongo’s as have those of my wife, my kids and numerous friends that I have sent his way and our relationship now has lasted for about 35 years.
It’s amazing how a simple act of honesty can result in years of loyalty from so many people.