There was a crowd outside the Blue Hill Garage Tuesday afternoon April 30, but folks weren’t there to get their cars fixed.
Friends, family, garage employees and long-time customers of the garage gathered to wish owner Peter Clapp well on his last day on the job. After 50 years at the garage, more than 30 of them as the owner, Clapp retired on Tuesday and turned the garage over to the new owner, long-time employee Donnie Perkins.
Clapp spent the afternoon greeting well-wishers with hugs and handshakes and responding to the question “do you have any plans for retirement?”
“No plans,” he said. “I’ll probably work at home, help my wife with the garden, do some hunting. I’ll be involved with the church and the local lodge. But I’ll try to say ‘no’ a lot during the first year.”
He said he’ll have to adjust to not having to get up and be at the garage at 6 a.m. every morning. It’ll be a big change, he said.
One of the first things he hopes to do is get out into the woods.
“I hope to get out and get my fire wood in before winter,” he said. “I like doing that, manual things outdoors away from the telephone.”
The garage has been in his family since 1941 and Clapp has worked there since 1963. He became owner in 1975. The thing that has been special during that time, he said, has been the people he’s met.
“The thing that stands out is the great customers I’ve had and the real great employees I’ve had,” he said.
He said he’s been surprised at how fast the time has gone by.
“When I was in my 20s, I’d see people who were 50 and 60 and I’d think, ‘boy, I’m never going to be that old.’”
Perkins took over the reins of the business on Wednesday. He’s been working at the garage since he was in high school.
“I was a senior in high school and it was part of a work-study program,” he said. “At first, Peter didn’t want to hire me, but I came back three or four times and kept bugging him and finally he hired me.”
That was in 1976. Perkins worked at the garage part-time and, during his two years at trade school, on Saturdays and vacations. When he graduated, Clapp hired him fulltime.
Although the final paperwork hasn’t been completed, Perkins said the transition has been smooth.
Perkins said he is looking forward to the new business adventure but that he wasn’t overly nervous about his new role as owner.
“I’ve been around here for a while,” he said. “I know how it works. Of course, it’ll be different being the head of it.”
He said he doesn’t plan any big changes in the operation, especially with the busy summer season coming on.
“We’ll all have to adjust some with Peter not being in the workforce,” he said. “And I’ll have to change some of my work habits to be available to the public.”
For the most part, the two men mingled separately among the crowd on Tuesday but they joined forces to cut Clapp’s retirement cake topped with a bright red Corvette.
Clapp did have parting advice for Perkins as he takes over the garage.
“Don’t promise too much,” he said. “Deliver more than you promise.”