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February 7, 2013

Changing of the guard at Gaybrook

ESSEX — The husband-and-wife musical team of “Captain” Stanley Collinson and Daisy Nell are still performing and recording their songs.

But they have now handed over the keys to the historic Gaybrook Garage on Western Avenue to one of their experienced technicians, Michael Crowley.

The landmark change drew Collinson to recall his start in the garage business, opening his first shop and pump station in 1970 in Manchester.

He recalled his first customer at the Depot Esso Station, his business partner’s father, and just after the gas tank was filled, the car came to a screeching halt, Collilnson said.

“Somehow, water had gotten in the tank,” he said.

Collinson and his partner later discovered the car had been left unattended for so long, water built up inside the tank without anyone knowing.

Collinson said he still laughs at the memory of that first customer today.

“I basically learned the business by the seat of my pants,” he said.

After his business expanded in Manchester, he needed something bigger than a two-bay garage and purchased the Gaybrook in 1978.

The two had tried running both locations for awhile, but eventually made their permanent location in Essex, bringing some clients with them.

In retrospect, he said, moving into a business in January of 1978 was not the ideal time. The infamous Blizzard of ‘78 that struck the next month, and 35 yers ago this week, hit Essex hard as well, and Collinson did not see any business for about 10 days as Western Avenue was completely blocked off by the snow, he said. Yet he had faith.

”A business that survived the Crash of ‘29 could survive the Blizzard of ‘78, and it did,” Collinson said.

The first Gaybrook Garage, meanwhile, was built in 1929, and the garage was owned and operated by two business partners for decades. After the two had gone their separate ways, a brick three-bay garage was built in the 1950s, and that’s come to be known as the Gaybrook Garage of today.

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