NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

July 18, 2013

Handing over the keys

After 8 decades in Amesbury, Michaud's Garage closes today

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — It’s the end of the road for one of Amesbury’s oldest auto repair shops, as Michaud’s Garage officially closes its doors today after more than 80 years of business on Friend Street.

Phil Michaud, the garage’s 83-year-old owner, is officially retiring after spending his entire professional life at his family’s business. Michaud recently sold the property to a developer, and the old building will soon be demolished to make room for several new houses.

“My last day is [today] at 2 p.m.,” Michaud said. “I’m going to give them the keys and say, ‘See you later.’”

Michaud’s Garage has been operating at 98 Friend St. since Michaud’s father first started the business back in the early 1930s. The business was one of the oldest in town, and Michaud wound up working there for 60 years, with the only break coming when he served in the Air Force during the Korean War.

Perhaps the biggest testament to Michaud’s skill and longevity is the Willy Jeep that he bought new in 1949 and still uses to plow snow to this day. Michaud has kept the Jeep in working condition for over 60 years simply by doing all the things you’re supposed to, like changing the oil and keeping up with maintenance, he said.

“It’s just taking good care of it,” Michaud said. “It’s been well maintained, and if you take care of things, they’ll last forever.”

Michaud said he could have even restored the Jeep at some point to make it look brand new again too, but he opted not to because “I wouldn’t want to plow with it because it would look too nice.”

Regardless, he acknowledged that eventually parts rot and “nothing lasts forever.” Michaud realized the same applied to him last year after he suffered a fall, and it occurred to him that if it happened again while he was alone in the shop, he could be stuck lying on the ground for hours with nobody around to help him.

“Then a guy came along and asked me if I was ready to sell, and I said, ‘You know what? I think I am now,’” Michaud said. “It was time, so I had an opportunity and I took it.”

Michaud said the old garage will soon be torn down to make room for five new houses, and since closing up shop he has been working tirelessly to clear everything out in preparation for the building’s demolition. Despite having spent most of his life in the garage, he said he’s looking forward to the future and has no regrets.

“I’m sad to see it go too, but time is up,” Michaud said. “I could probably go another five years, but I don’t think so.”

By yesterday afternoon, all of the old tools and equipment had been taken elsewhere to be sorted, as had all the old pictures of Amesbury dating back to the late 1930s. The only thing remaining in the garage was Michaud’s old Jeep and a handful of miscellaneous supplies.

Despite his automotive expertise, Michaud admitted that, by the end, many modern cars were starting to evolve beyond his understanding and that the time had come for a new generation to take over.

“Everything in fixing automobiles has changed a lot,” he said. “It’s like when my father used to work on the Model Ts and stuff, then they came out with the alternators and ignitions and I knew that stuff. But now they have computers, and they’ve lost me. Everything changes in time.”

Even so, Michaud said he plans to use his new-found free time to the fullest. He enjoys fishing and gardening, and hopes to travel with his wife, Gwen.