HOLMES BEACH -- For nearly 40 years, a small mom and pop auto repair business on Anna Maria Island has regularly serviced everything from Richard Galle's Ford work van to Bill Swope's 1946 V-12 black Lincoln convertible to Brian's Hogan's 1977 white Mercedes 450 SL roadster to SMART cars, hybrids, bicycles and even the bent tools from the Domino's Pizza next door.
But Island Auto Repair may be forced to relocate off the Island from the garage it rents from Faye Groons and her son Barry, at 5608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, Island Auto owners Aaron
Rickerson and his mother and father, Judi and Rick, said Friday.
"Barry Groons has told us our lease will not be renewed because the Department of Environmental Protection needs to rehabilitate the property and we have to be out by Dec. 1," Aaron Rickerson said Friday.
The Rickersons said they are hoping a miracle will turn up an Island location where they can continue. But, if not, they are considering two bays in the Gulf Coast Auto Glass building on Ninth Street West in Bradenton directly across from McKechnie Field and a vacant building at Palma Sola and Cortez Road.
The family also needs to raise $10,000 to move equipment and will hold a fundraiser in the near future.
The news has saddened some of the customers of the business, who claim fierce loyalty to the small shop.
"First of all, the Island needs Island Auto Repair," said Swope, an Island Auto Repair customer for 20 years. "The problem as I see it is that they want that property for development. Of course, I have only one side of the story. But I know it will be a loss for the Island if they have to leave because we wouldn't have a place to take our cars out here. I'm afraid they will have to relocate into Bradenton, which will make it awkward for customers on the Island."
"Our heart is here," Aaron Rickerson said. "If we have to leave the Island, we want to stay close."
Rickerson said he offered Barry Groons double the current $1,500 monthly rent to stay in the location.
"He told me it wasn't do-able," Rickerson said.
A text to Barry Groons, who is a Bradenton real estate agent, was not returned Friday.
Rickerson said that, with soaring Island property values, the property where the garage sits could be worth close to $1 million.
"They're gonna be a sorry loss to the Island," said Hogan. "But not to me. I will follow them. I have had marvelous success with them. I had a vintage Rolls Royce and, living on the Island, I said to myself, 'I wonder where I could take this, what they will charge and whether the repair would be worth a hoot.' Aaron solved all the problems at a fair price. It's been a love affair since that point. Not only do they work on my Mercedes 450 SL roadster, but also my wife's Saturn."
Rickerson is certain that if there is an environmental issue it began years ago, when Rick Rickerson and Faye Groons' husband, Rodney, worked side by side in the garage, operating two separate businesses, Island Auto Repair and Groons Automotive.
Aaron Rickerson, who is fanatical about storing old oil and other contaminants, believes oil probably did get into the soil in the 1970s, leaving ground contamination that would need to be dug up and treated.
"Barry Groons told me that,'This place can't resemble a repair shop by the beginning of the year,'" Rickerson said.
Details about exactly what the Department of Environmental Protection may want done at the property and when were not available by deadline.
Those with an idea for keeping the business on the Island are asked to call Aaron Rickerson at 941-565-6486.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.