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Jacked, Part 1

“Me and Mario are jacked out of our minds. We’re pumped up, high energy…” This is how Tommy Santino describes himself and Mario Avallone. It’s an understatement.

Jacked, pumped, stoked – in 42 years living in New York City, I have never seen a business that operates like this. It’s a social club on steroids or, as Salvatore Jr. described it, a circus. Three generations, all present every day. Salvatore Avallone, who founded the business in 1959, sits reading at his desk while his son, Mario, and his grandson, Salvatore, scurry about running the business. Interloper and friend, Tom Santino, comes in daily and makes lunch with Salvatore Sr.

What do you get when you combine honesty, competence, a sense of urgency, customer service par excellence, and fair pricing? A place where people will beat a path to your door. And here at Salerno Service Station at 451 Lorimer Street in Brooklyn, they do. This is a business that elevates customer service above all else. It is unique – after only a few minutes, I knew everything everyone had said about this place was true and that I, too, would become a Salerno devotee.

I needed a muffler repaired, and here in New York City, as elsewhere, auto repair is riddled with charlatans, liars, cheaters, and crooks. The Internet has helped immeasurably to sort businesses out. I began some online searching and became intrigued with Salerno Service Station in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Of over 80 reviews, all but two were 5 stars – remarkable and unfathomable really. The reviews themselves were saturated with superlatives. A visit was in order.

The station is open 24 hours and the auto service department from 8AM to 2PM on Saturday. I wanted to insure that my repair was done Saturday, so, given this place’s popularity, I arrived at 7:30AM. Mechanics were already on the scene in preparation for start of their workday. Ryan approached me immediately and pulled my car into the garage and onto a lift. He confirmed that I needed a muffler and that they could do the job easily. However, parts suppliers did not open until 8:15AM, so he suggested I relax at the Willburg Cafe around the corner. I took his recommendation and had a leisurely breakfast while waiting.
At 8:10, my cellphone rang. A muffler for my 20-year old car had already been located. I was given pricing and was told that I also needed an air filter, but it would be done at no charge. I needed an oil change. No charge. And I had the most annoying rattle that no one could isolate for years. They would investigate. (They found it and repaired it at no charge.) I gave the go-ahead for the muffler replacement.

A fellow diner overheard my conversation, asking if I had a vehicle at Salerno Service. I told him I did. He extolled their virtues, adding that he was their medical doctor, Dr. Zane, a podiatrist. A small and interconnected world indeed, here in East Williamsburg. I was also told that Mario was quite affluent, owning a lavish home in Long Island as well as many buildings in Brooklyn. He ran the business for the love of it. Workaholics. Nothing drives a business like passion and the love of work and people.

My car was completely finished ahead of schedule. I left the diner to pick it up. The place was now brimming with activity, and the family had arrived. I did not want to leave. I was escorted around the garage, given several complementary T-shirts (Mario keeps cases on hand). The original tow truck from 1959, perfectly restored, sits nearby. A sign below Lorimer Street proclaims “Via Salerno” – I was told this was given courtesy of the Guiliani administration. Salerno Service is a power station and has assisted the city in many crises.

I was being educated and entertained by Tommy Santino, who elaborated on business and life. I was to learn that the Avallone family and Tommy were pumped in more ways than one. All have the physiques of body builders – photos and trophies in the back office are testament that they had more than a passing interest. Two decades ago, they installed a gym in a back room. Here, I was escorted for a tour and learned that Tommy had been a professional boxer and headed the New York State boxing commission. His wife, Mary Murphy, is an award-winning reporter and anchorwoman for a local New York City television network. I watched Salvatore Jr. demonstrate his conditioning on the pullup bar. Mario, I learned, has appeared in films, including those of director Spike Lee.

The stories were endless, the achievements amazing, and the energy was infectious. I recorded my visit, and on my next installment of this story, you can see the movie and how everyone in this place, along with me, is truly jacked…

More unique New York City businesses and their owners: Not Just Meatballs, That’s Giove, Joe’s Dairy (The Movie, Part 1 and Part 2), A Sharp Focus, Trimmings for Sale, Instincts, Walk Like Di Fara, The Bathroom Closes in 20 Minutes, We Don’t Do Windows, Because I’m the Best (Part 1 and Part 2), Thank You, Mr. Dupal, New York Moment, Hurry, Economy Candy, Alidoro, Space Surplus Metals

5 Responses to Jacked, Part 1

  1. What fun, now I’m all pumped up! I’ll be looking for that video!!

  2. Do they handle body work?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sadly they don’t, but Mario gave me the name of a place he recommends (Richardson Auto Body in Brooklyn). Mario does not appear to tolerate nonsense, so I would trust his recommendation.

  4. Looks like a group of good and true people and no mystery why their business is appreciated by the community.

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