The garage's home on Curran Highway was built in 1987 with a group of other businesses, including Southside Sales & Service. Southside is planning to expand into Dean's space.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A mainstay on Curran Highway for more than 40 years, Dean's Quality Auto & Truck Repair is lowering the garage doors for the last time this month.
"I don't regret any of it. It has been a good ride, and I have met a lot of nice people. It is just the next step in my career," owner Joseph Dean said. "I have been doing this since I was 10 years old. I have been around it my whole life."
But Dean isn't stepping out of the driver's seat completely, he is just moving down the street to reconnect with his original passion: working on classic cars from the 1960s and 1970s.
"This place here was getting sort of overwhelming, and I wanted to do something," he said. "I am 62 at the end of the month and I needed to start looking at getting out. This is better than just going cold turkey, and I am going from chaos to what I like to do."
The Dean's Auto story goes back to the 1960s when Dean's father, the late Jimmy Dean, owned a gas station where Mohawk Auto stands today.
The gas station was built in 1964. Dean said he became more involved in 1978 after graduating from McCann Technical School.
"I worked for him for years. We went through all of the gas wars and all of that," Dean said. "One day he said, 'I had enough,' I said, 'damn I just got in,' so he said, 'well, I will work for you then.'"
From there they bounced around locations along the Curran Highway, including a building outside the former Coury's Drive-in Theater where the first Walmart was later built. The business was most notably in the former Antiquity Den that was next to the now Ernie's Auto and later demolished.
Dean said they were there for eight years and things were going so well they were thinking about buying the spot. Until the building owner had other plans for the building and kicked them out.
"We thought, oh crap, this is getting old moving the business," Dean said. "We saw that this property was for sale so we got together with a few other people and talked the bank into giving us some money. We put this place up, and I said I was never moving again. And here I am moving again."
The 528 Curran Highway location was built in 1987. Dean has been there for 33 years, totaling 43 years in the business.
Dean will be adding to that in his new venture on Hodges Cross Road. He and his partner Mike Libardi purchased the former Rick's Auto and will open Two Guys Auto Restoration and Repair.
"I started in the business in the '70s working on those cars I am going back to working on those cars. Those '60s and '70s cars," Dean said. "That is what I know inside and out."
Dean, a third-generation mechanic, is really returning to his first passion, working on those classic cars he grew up with. His love of the old muscle cars was one reason he and others organized Motorama, an all-day event that brings hundreds of classic cars and other vehicles to Main Street. (And that will hopefully return in 2022.)
"My grandfather did it forever, he worked on Model As and my father taught me so here I am," he said. "I enjoy working on the old cars. Something that I don't need to talk to a laptop. I just have to turn the screw to make something happen or change a part. There is none of that in the new cars."
While owning Dean's Quality Auto & Truck Repair, he has been a bit removed from that passion. He noted monitoring wrecker calls has been a 24/7 job.
"The 2 a.m. phone calls are starting to get old. Me and the wife have been married to this place for years," he said. "As my father got older and could do less, we haven't had a real vacation for more than a few days in 20 years. You can't get far from this place without hearing the phone ringing."
With that, Dean said he did enjoy a challenge.
"'It is down there between those two trees over that rock can you get that out of there?" Dean said. "And you get it out of there. Yeah, the day-to-day towing is day-to-day towing, but I always liked the challenge."
He recalled one call years ago in Adams where a vehicle drove off Highland Avenue down into the river.
"We winched the car all the way up to the trees. Now what are we going to do?" he said. "We had a guy that worked for me climb into the tree to put a chain around the tree and we got the car sideways and pulled it between the two trees and put it back down. We pulled it out the rest of the way."
He's pulled out tractor-trailers stuck under the trestle on Church Street, rescued a city plow truck that went over a banking and nearly into a house, and towed vehicles from hundreds of accidents.
Dean said he will also miss his loyal customers.
"I have a lot of nice customers, and I am trying to get them another place to go because they have been with me for years," he said. "I have had one customer with me since day one ... I had to tell him and he said, 'you realize we have been together since high school.' I will miss those people."
Dean said their neighbor Southside plans to take over the Dean's portion of the building. He said he was happy to see the neighboring business that has been with them since the beginning expanding.
"We have gotten along great for all these years, and we have picked a good group," Dean said. "We all had the same idea, and we were all on the same level playing ground. We always helped and worked with each other."
He said he will be opening the newly renovated Two Guys Auto Restoration and Repair sometime in June. He will do the majority of the mechanical duties while Libardi will take on the paint and bodywork.
He hopes to have a soft opening this summer with a car show.
Dean lit up when talking about the upcoming cruise nights. He said he is vaccinated and ready to go, already signed up for car shows that are scheduled across the region. He said he has a barn full of cars he is raring to show off.
"We didn't have anything last year we were stir crazy," he said. "I have 13 cars. I took them out for a ride and put them back in the garage. There was nowhere to go. I like to drive them somewhere to show."
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