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updated: 10/17/2012 9:18 AM

Des Plaines auto repair shop closing after 56 years

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  • Ray Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines talking about the early days, holding a picture with himself in the middle, brother Hal on left and Harry, Ray's dad on the right. He is finishing up work on two cars then calling it quits due to the economic hardship of keeping the family business alive after the death of his father and brother.

       Ray Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines talking about the early days, holding a picture with himself in the middle, brother Hal on left and Harry, Ray's dad on the right. He is finishing up work on two cars then calling it quits due to the economic hardship of keeping the family business alive after the death of his father and brother.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Ray Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines, where he is finishing up repair work on two cars. The business has been in the family 56 years.

       Ray Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines, where he is finishing up repair work on two cars. The business has been in the family 56 years.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Ray Gleason

      Ray Gleason

  • Ray Gleason stands outside his automotive shop in Des Plaines.

       Ray Gleason stands outside his automotive shop in Des Plaines.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Ray Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines which he will be closing the door on this chapter of his life due to the economic hardship of keeping the family business alive.

       Ray Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines which he will be closing the door on this chapter of his life due to the economic hardship of keeping the family business alive.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comRay Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines saying he will be closing the door on this chapter of his life due to the economic hardship of keeping the family business alive after 56 years.

      Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comRay Gleason stands inside his automotive shop in Des Plaines saying he will be closing the door on this chapter of his life due to the economic hardship of keeping the family business alive after 56 years.

  • Ray Gleason stands outside his automotive shop in Des Plaines. The business is getting a new owner after being in the family 56 years.

       Ray Gleason stands outside his automotive shop in Des Plaines. The business is getting a new owner after being in the family 56 years.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

Ray Gleason is the last man standing in the family-owned Des Plaines auto repair shop -- started by his father and World War II veteran Harry Gleason in 1956 -- where he and his brother, Hal, learned to be grease monkeys as teenagers.

Now, after 56 years in business, the family is forced to sell Gleason's Automotive at 173 S. Wolf Road due to economic hardship, the 60-year-old Gleason said.

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"I'm saying goodbye to people I've known my whole life," said Gleason, who has been tooling around his father's shop since the age of 14. "It's not easy. The car fixing part is fine. I like dealing with the people. I think when the time comes, it will be just best to walk away."

The auto repair shop will remain open under a different name and private owner after its sale is completed around Nov. 6, he added.

Years ago, the business included a Standard Oil gas station. In the early 1980s, it became a Union 76. In 1991, the gas station closed.

"It got so expensive to have underground (gas) tanks," Gleason said. "(But) things were still good enough. You are always hopeful that things are going to pick up."

Today, the business generates just enough income to pay the taxes on the property with little left over, he said.

At one time, the business employed three people and it was run by the two brothers after Harry Gleason died. Hal Gleason worked in the shop until six months before he succumbed to bone cancer in November 2009, Gleason said.

He said he had to let his last employee go last spring.

Gleason said neither his two younger siblings, nor any of the third generation -- Harry's grandchildren -- went into the automotive business. They are doing well in their chosen professions, he added.

Gleason, who lives in Carol Stream, said he's not ready to hang it up entirely and will look for a job, likely in another auto shop, until he's ready for retirement.

"It's a long way off," Gleason said.

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