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VOICES OF THE VALLEY: Erik Gay, Don's Auto Service, Belchertown

My family started this business in 1957 as auto repair and used car sales. The auto repair is probably bigger. I am hands-on in the shop.

My grandfather started it, and my mother and I bought it in 1991. It has been a family affair for a long time. My wife works here with me also, so it is nice. We are right here in the community and we all enjoy being here.

We have been here a long time and we just try to run an honest repair shop here and do the right things for our customers.

Belchertown is a growing community and we have been able to build our customer base.

Nothing has shrunk because of the recession. We have actually gotten busier, I think.

With the recession we find people trying to hold onto their cars a little bit longer, maybe get another couple of years out of them instead of going into another car payment, so we have been busy all along.

A lot of people are doing more preventive maintenance as well. They want their cars to last at least 200,000 miles now.

Costs for the business keep going up because we have to keep up with software, technology and computer data bases so we can fix the cars. To work on today’s cars, you have to keep buying the new tools and new computer systems.

With the recession that we are in, we have to be able to offer people different levels of quality in the parts that we want to put in. We give them a lot more options now than we ever had to before as far as different grades of parts.

Sometimes they may choose to go with something that may not have a lifetime warranty. We do a lot of that now. We try to keep the price where the people need it to be.

We have five other people working at the business, and we have been able to keep that a constant for the last few years.

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