One Monday morning 40 years ago 24-year-old Mario Geremia opened the door for the first time to what is now Queen Compact Cars, and said “well, here I am.”
Laughing at the memory, he said, “what did I know about running a business? I’m a mechanic.”
From the time he was a youngster in Bianco, Italy Geremia was fascinated with engines. School did not hold the same appeal, so his grandfather suggested he learn the trade. A natural, by 16 Geremia was running his own motorcycle shop. At 18 he emigrated to Canada and joined his sister living in the East End. Upon upgrading his certificates he found a job in a local repair shop.
Several years later Geremia, his new bride, Teresa, and their baby girl were living with his in-laws. He was determined to find their own home.
“I thought I’d buy a garage on a highway outside the city with a home attached,” he said. “Every weekend I’d go off in search.”
Geremia worked double shifts to earn the down payment. Then one day a repair shop client offered Mario his property at Queen and Wineva.
“A dream come true, but I had nowhere near the money he wanted,” said Geremia.
Family stepped in and helped out. No sooner had he purchased the place when the seller changed his mind, and was ready to pay $10,000 to cancel. Mario was about to agree. He knew it would take a long time to earn that much. But Teresa said, “No. This is your dream.”
Geremia rented the car lot to a dealer then concentrated on fixing cars. From the beginning the repair shop had a steady clientele.
“In the seventies it seems everyone in the Beaches drove some kind of sports car. Lots of MGBs. So we had a lot of customers,” he said.
When Geremia decided to try his hand at selling cars, it was one car at a time, “all I could afford. I’d search for a car in good shape. Give it a mechanical overhaul. Once it sold I would find another.”
Early on Mario convinced Teresa to leave her job and take over the financial end of the operation. Since then it has thrived as a family affair – Mario credits Teresa and her fiscal astuteness with their success. She, of course, credits Mario and his innate mechanical sense.
In 40 years, of the thousands of cars sold from Queen Compact, about 75 per cent have gone to people in the neighbourhood.
“Of course you can’t please everyone,” he mused, “but every car that leaves this lot is like a story, and we want them all to have happy endings.”
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