By NATHAN SOLIS
HIGHLAND PARK — York Boulevard in recent years has become the neighborhood hot spot for cafes, bars, and boutiques. But many people don’t go to York Boulevard to get their coffee fix. Instead, it’s the place to get their cars and trucks fixed at garages with names like Bernie’s, Herbie’s, Sam’s and Ray’s. In fact, auto repair is a big business on York Boulevard, with more than two dozen shops in operation.
Some auto repairs shops have closed in recent years. The Dubini Import Auto Parts shop is now a juice bar; Highland Park Automotive has been vacant for more than a year as a rumored mixed use project is in the works for the property. But business, in general, has been good for the mechanics, body shop experts and other repairmen of York Boulevard, say some owners.
You can find a repair shop next to a gourmet donut shop, and buy auto parts a few doors down from bars and coffee houses. Next door to McGibbon’s Auto Body Shop is a rehearsal space for bands. The sound of music slowly drifts out, mixing with sanding machines and frame straighteners at the body shop that has been in business for more than half a century.
The York garage owners have witnessed the gentrification and changes in the neighborhood and relish the new clientele.
Located at the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 52, Bernie’s Transmission is front-and center to all the change in the neighborhood. “I see a lot more Yelp reviews on our page with the new people who have moved into the neighborhood,” said owner Leo Quiusky, who bought Bernie’s from the original owners more than 20 years ago.
When the economy was tanking in 2009, Quiusky said that he noticed the arrival of new businesses on York and the new residents in the area. Business at Bernie’s picked up after the recession with the help of newcomers and long-time residents, he said.
Down the street, Gary Papirian of Bussard’s All Pro Automotive Center said business has been steady at the business he opened about 20 years ago. Since he owns the property, Papirian does not have to worry about being pushed out by rent increases. He enjoys the new activity along York Boulevard, but wonders if any of it is just hype drummed up by real estate agents.
“The only people who suffer are the residents who have to pay a higher rent.”
While Papirian does not have to worry about a landlord raising his rent, he does have to contend with city inspectors looking for violations that come with fines. Once Papirian set up a tarp over a garage and was instructed to take it down immediately.
Viken Ouzounian purchased Don’s Automotive Repair from the previous owners sixteen years ago. Ouzounian went through extensive interviews before he was offered the chance to purchase the business that has been on York Boulevard for several decades.
Ouzounian welcomes certain aspects of York’s changing economic landscape, and he said he feels that his clients and property are safer now. Those clients range from working to middle class people, some local residents, but all customers nonetheless.
“We’re trying to make the best out of both worlds.”
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.
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