Bartlett’s Garage closes its doors on March 30

Brothers Mike and Greg Quillen stand around the last car in their garage, a 1983 Jeep Wagoneer, as they prepare to close the business and retire at the end of the month. Photo by Spenser Hasak

After 110 years in business, Edgar Bartlett’s Garage will close its doors on March 30.

The family business that was last owned by Greg and Mike Quillen, who took over and ran the business for about 50 years. Before them, their father James Quillen took over when his father passed away suddenly.

Greg and Mike decided against the family tradition of passing on and maintaining the business, since they both believe small shops that can’t keep up with technology will eventually run out of business.

“The business has changed dramatically. It’s not decreasing. They’re not going to be just doing the oil changes and getting dirty and grinding,” said Greg. “This is high-tech computers that most people don’t even come close to having in their homes.”

Age is also a factor, as Greg is now 65-years-old, while Mike is 68.

“The business is there, we have plenty of business but physically our bodies are telling us it’s time,” said Mike.

The software and equipment now used for cars are challenging small repair shops. Mike, along with Greg, stopped working on European cars more than 15 years ago because they are more complicated and expensive to fix.

For the Quillens, the loyalty of their customers, who have been with them for more than 15 years, has helped them stay open for many years.

“That’s why we stayed here so long, it’s nice when you have a nice customer base,” said Mike.

The Quillens said the hardest point in the garage’s 110-year history was the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, when they and many other shops were unable to repair vehicles.

“When things did start getting back to semi-normal, we couldn’t get parts,” said Mike.

Mike used one vehicle in the shop as an example, saying they had to nationally backorder parts for it five times before they could work on it.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, Greg and Mike found themselves changing brakes and batteries.

“The fact that people started working from home and didn’t move their cars for long periods helped the shop stay on their feet, with brake changes from rust acquired over time and battery changes,” said Greg.

Both Mike and Greg feel that gearing toward electric cars is not ideal at the moment.

“The concept is good, but this country is not ready for it,” said Mike.

“They are jumping so fast into the electric,” Greg added. “Hybrids have been around for a long time, they save a lot of fuel.”

When it comes to electric cars, the Quillens say they are going to affect the small garages across Massachusetts.

“More and more they’re pushing electric, electric, electric, electric on everybody,” said Greg. “The young people get brainwashed into it, electric. We live in town here, a couple of times over the summer we’re going to have brownouts, and the Light Department called. The first thing they said was that ‘People, don’t plug your electric car in, they are like up to 14 refrigerators going.’”

In the more than 50 years since Greg and Mike took over the business, they said they have serviced about 60 cars per week. That adds up to around 150,000 cars serviced in the entire time they have owned the garage.

The property on 1 Stacey St. was sold to a private buyer who will be using it to store their car collection.