Connie Giordano, 80, sat in front of the counter, next to a board of family pictures. A black and white portrait of eight mechanics stood out. It’s a photo of the old crew that worked in the adjacent shop for Giordano and her late husband at King’s County Carburetors and Ignition.
The Giordanos built their shop in 1951 on an empty lot in Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton Parkway. What started as a small carburetor shop became a complete car service center run by one of the Giordano’s four children, Peter.
Much has changed since the shop was established: the neighborhood, the car industry and the business.
The Scandinavians on nearby Eighth Avenue were replaced by the Chinese, who prefer to repair their cars at Chinese shops, Peter Giordano said. The introduction of warranties had also severely cut into the family’s business, his mother, Connie, added.
However, those are not Peter Giordano’s most stressing concerns. Amid the economic downturn, the automotive industry has been in the eye of the storm. A growing number of car service centers are anticipating the worse, and the Giordano’s is no exception.
For the past two years, King’s County has experienced a drop in the number of customers. Peter Giordano attributed this decline to a general trend among car leases. Many of them, he said, are only taking care of the basic, least expensive repairs to ensure their engines keep running.
When the lease ends, “it’s the next guy’s problem,” Peter Giordano said.
Over this same period, several reports showed that more people are holding on to their old cars. Many are not willing to burden their budgets by the cost of a new car, while the ghost of job loss is looming.
Emiddio Pelosi, 84, one of the oldest customers at King’s County, said there’s almost nothing that could drive him to replace his 2002 Buick Jasper.
“I am not getting a new car now, unless I hit the jack pot,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi, however, said he wished he could have used the Car Allowance Rebate System to change his car, which did not qualify.
The $3 billion federal Car Allowance Rebate System, also known as the Cash for Clunkers program, intended to stimulate the economy by providing incentives for those willing to trade in their old cars for more fuel efficient ones. The program lasted a month and has just concluded on Aug. 24, with 700,000 new car deals, according to the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood.
Despite that, Giordano believes the program will hurt his business down the line. With a sudden influx of new cars on the street, there will likely be fewer opportunities for an independent car service centers to perform maintenance.
For now, Peter Giordano is taking it one day at a time. “c’est la vie… we will survive,” he said.