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.
"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.