[Photos by Marissa Gonzalez]
SARATOGA SPRINGS — On May 15 one of the oldest garages in Saratoga, Stark Auto, closed up shop for the last time.
“It’s like going full blast then stopping all of a sudden,” Stark said.
This past week Stark has been seeing his last customers, packing up and saying goodbyes to town regulars that have been customers for years. It is apparent that Stark was not only a local business but a neighbor people could rely on. In fact, now former customers are seeking Stark’s advice on where to take their car troubles next.
“I think we’re an institution of some kind,” Stark said.
“It goes back 72-years-ago when my father started it after he got out of the army in World War II and came to Saratoga,” he said.
Stark’s father, Henry, first started the business with a shop located at what is now Saratoga Masonry. It was a salvage yard that also sold used cars. It wasn’t until 1958 when Stark’s father opened up shop at the 64 Excelsior Ave. location. While in High School Stark worked the gas pump that used to be part of the garage. After attending college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Stark was a teacher for six years at Greenwich Junior-Senior High School. He later returned to the shop and has been managing the garage since 1985. Stark has only one employee, Richard Pregent, whom he calls his franchise quarterback or his Tom Brady.
There are still customers today, that have been using Stark Auto for the services since day one.
“People have been coming here for so long, they kinda lost a place to go,” Stark said. “With a business you’re either all in or all out...You got to put in long hours... Actually taking care of the customers, that’s the fun part,” Stark said.
The fate of the property is still known, even for Stark.
“We have a perspective buyer and they don’t know if they are going to knock it down or rent it out,” he said.
Stark owns the whole building. Including the auto parts store that is connected to the garage. He did not disclose who the buyer is. When asked what’s next for Stark, “freedom,” he said. “I’m ready to do the things I want to do,” he added.
Stark has four daughters and seven grand children. “I can’t wait to spend more time with them,” he said.