George’s British American Auto Repair has been in Daytona Beach for years
Owner George Zaharios talks about George’s British American Auto Repair in Daytona Beach
Owner George Zaharios talks about the success of George’s British American Auto Repair, a Daytona Beach staple for 41 years.
Jim Abbott, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
DAYTONA BEACH – Like an actual remnant of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry or that old TV waterhole where ‘everyone knows your name’, there are apparently no strangers around the counter at George’s British American Auto Repair.
Established at the corner of Orange and Palmetto avenues for 41 years, the company has built its reputation on the unwavering dedication of loyal customers like Tracy Griffin, a regular for 17 years.
âI’m not going to anyone else’s house,â Griffin said, waiting for work a recent morning. Griffin walks into the store from his home in Palm Coast, even for routine maintenance on his 2016 Hyundai Sonata.
âI work in Jacksonville, that tells you my loyalty,â said Griffin, a guidance counselor at a welding school. âI don’t deal with anyone else because I don’t trust anyone else. Nobody, nobody, nobody touches my car except George.
That would be George Zaharios, 60, patriarch of the store he helped start as a teenager with his father and older brother Michael in the summer of 1980. The family moved from the Bayside neighborhood of Queens to New York, where they also had operated a repair shop.
George Zaharios completed the auto repair training program at what was then known as Daytona Beach Community College and went to work as a teenager in the family business. At 60, it is still there that it is found almost every day of the year, with the exception of major holidays like Independence Day, Christmas and New Years.
“You won’t see a sign on the door, ‘I went to the races’ or ‘Gone Fishing’,” he said. âMy dad was old school and what he taught me was very simple. You show up every day, you treat people like they want to be treated, and you don’t hurt them financially. Be reasonable.
“Do this and you will always have work.”
“There is history”
At the corner of Orange and Palmetto, the formula worked.
Although there is no major marquee, which fell victim to the winds of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the garage under the distinctive gabled roof remains busy with word of mouth and longtime devotees.
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One recent morning there was a constant stream of customers, all familiar faces of Peggy Zaharios, George’s wife of 34 years, who worked at the counter, on the phone, and on paperwork.
âEveryone knows everyone,â said Peggy, who also helps customers refuel every now and then at the store’s only gas pump. âWe never need to advertise. “
Among the regulars is Regina Beauton, 85, of Daytona Beach. She has been taking her 2005 Ford Focus to the workshop for 15 years. Reliable service isn’t the only thing that inspires this dedication, she said.
âWhat’s interesting about this place is that there is a bunch of characters and people who come to talk,â she said. âI was there the other day and they fixed my car, they still do, but while I’m sitting there people come and go, and most of them have been customers for years. They talk like they’re all old friends. I love this place. There is history.
Like any family, this story is not smooth.
George and his brother Michael, who worked together to start the business, separated about five years after their father, Mike Zaharios, passed away at the age of 64 in 2001.
Now Michael Zaharios owns and operates Michael’s British, American & Foreign Auto Repair right next door on Palmetto. In 2015, her store won the inaugural Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce’s âWe Have Noticedâ Award, a recognition program designed to highlight improvements made by area businesses.
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âWe don’t really talk too much,â said George. âWe have always been two different personalities.
Standing above a Toyota Avalon in one of the workshop’s service areas, George talks enthusiastically about the evolution of his repair business, an operation focused on electrical systems for virtually every engine imaginable. Behind him are shelves stacked from floor to ceiling with starters and alternators, others hanging from the ceiling and still others hidden in another corner, he said.
“I know we have over 3,000 starters for sure,” he said. “There’s more out there that you can’t see.”
The majority of parts are intended for cars, both foreign and domestic.
Zaharios is known for his expertise in high-end classic vehicles, said Allan Brewer, owner of Evans & Son Fine Jewelers on nearby Beach Street and a longtime vintage car collector.
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âHe’s one of the only guys in town who can work on my 1965 427 Cobra,â Brewer said. âThere are very few people I would trust to really get my hands on it.
âWith George, I bring him back regularly,â Brewer said. âHe and his family are absolutely dedicated to customer service and their expertise is vast.
âHe is one of the few (mechanics) to cover not only American but European vehicles, the older ones – Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Mercedes,â he said. âYou have to decipher these old cars and in the 70s and 80s they were complex vehicles. You didn’t have the computers you have today.
But cars aren’t the only focus of George’s Garage, a family-owned business that also includes two sons of the same name, George Jr., 32, and Derrick, 30.
On a nearby workbench there is a motor for the electric awning of a motorhome. The store also receives a lot of business from the area’s commercial fishermen, George said.
âKing’s Seafood (in Port Orange), Hull’s Seafood (in Ormond Beach); a lot of commercial fishermen in the area come to me because I build starters and alternators for all those big diesel engines, âhe said.
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In such cases, Zaharios and his sons are known to stay late to make sure an engine is running, so that its owner doesn’t lose money, miss work, or miss important obligations.
âLook at the working crew,â he said, pointing a thick, greasy finger at a construction crew across Palmetto Avenue. “Do you think if the alternator works like this they can wait?” They have to fix it; if not, you have guys standing up.
Likewise, Zaharios has a habit of being in the store an hour before its official opening time of 8 a.m., offering customers the option of dropping off vehicles on their way to work.
âYou have to put yourself in the person’s situation,â said George.
It’s another lesson learned from his father, a secret to the longevity of the store that isn’t much of a secret at all, he said.
âNot a day goes by that I don’t mention my father,â George said. âWithout him, we wouldn’t have learned to run a business, to keep working. Treat people the way they want to be treated. There is no mystery to this.
- When George’s British American Auto Repair opened in 1980, here’s a look at what else was going on around the world:
- Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18 in Washington, causing avalanches, explosions, large ash clouds, mudslides and massive damage that left 57 people dead.
- The Rubik’s Cube puzzle made its debut in London, generating a worldwide craze.
- CNN began broadcasting from its headquarters in Atlanta, the first 24-hour news network accessible to cable subscribers in the United States and Canada.
- The United States Olympic ice hockey team made history by defeating the much-favored Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics in a game that became known as “Miracle”. on ice “.
- Former Beatle John Lennon was gunned down by obsessed fan Mark David Chapman outside his New York City apartment on December 8, 1980. He was 40 years old.
- Serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. has been sentenced to death for the murder of 33 boys and young men.
- Republican Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter.
- Millions of people watch the drama “Dallas” in prime time to find out who shot JR Ewing.
Made Just Right: About this series
The Daytona Beach News-Journal highlights area businesses that have been around long enough to be an important part of our collective history. If you have owned a business that has been in business for at least 25 years, or would like to nominate a business for recognition, please contact reporter Jim Abbott at [email protected] Be sure to include your name, phone number and a little bit about the history of the company.
WHAT: George’s British American Auto Repair
OR: 154 Orange Avenue, Daytona Beach
HOURS: 8 am-6pm Monday to Friday
IN LINE: georgesbritishamericanautorepair.com