As you walk up the driveway of Monte and Son’s Auto Repair in Germantown, you are greeted by a parking lot full of customer vehicles, a vintage Jeep and a couple of old Mustangs that look like they have seen better days. Dozens of spare tires are scattered throughout the grounds and a garage with hydraulic lifts is cluttered with tools.
Past a sign that says “Office,” the Monteiro brothers, Ricky and Pete, are busy tending to a steady flow of loyal customers who come from Germantown, Mount Airy and even Roxborough to get their cars repaired by men known for their quality work and honest prices.
“You have to do good work,” explained Pete Monteiro, who left his job as a bank manager to return to the family business. “You have to be fair, competitive with national places like Pep Boys or NAPA (National Automotive Parts Association), and don’t knock people’s socks off.”
Pete and Ricky’s father, Monte “Pop” Monteiro, a former mechanic and welder for the Philadelphia Police Department, began the business in the late 1960s as a small repair garage on Belfield Avenue. In 1977, with work expanding, the garage moved to its present site at 44 East Walnut Lane, just off Germantown Avenue.
When Monte Monteiro retired in the early 1990s, Pete left his job as a branch manager at Fidelity Bank to join Ricky and another brother, Joe, in running the business. Pete and Ricky work full-time in the shop, while Joe, an accountant, does the shop’s annual taxes.
While other auto repair shops in Germantown seem to come and go, Monte’s has been going strong for nearly four decades.
“If my car was a human being and these people were doctors, then I would have no other person taking care of my car at this point,” said one Monte customer in a review on Yelp. Said another: “This is the best car repair I’ve ever come across!” Among other things, the shop earns kudos on Yelp for its workmanship, fair prices, willingness to look for spare parts, transportation for customers to and from work and home, and commitment to fixing cars rather than pressing customers to buy new ones.
“We will fix anything,” said Ricky Monteiro, a master mechanic who is not afraid to take on a challenge. “You could bring in a huge plane, and we may not be able to fix it but we will try and we will certainly try for the customer.”
Dave Tavani, a Germantown resident who has been going to Monte’s for the past five years, is typical of the shop’s customers. On a recent day, he said Ricky Monteiro spent 30 minutes with him on the phone, guiding him through a temporary fix for an overheating engine. “They are real honest guys and are really helpful,” he said.
The Monteiro brothers attribute such customer loyalty to their abiding philosophy for more than three decades: do a great job the first time, be fair and don’t have customers coming back with the same problem over and over again. “If they keep coming back for all the same problems, then really how good of a job are we doing?” asked Pete Monteiro.
The task of doing the job right the first time is challenging given the technological changes among newer cars on the market. “Our mechanics have to constantly get new training,” explained Pete. “We have to stay up to date with the newest and the finest technology.”
After 36 years in Germantown, the Monteiro brothers hope that the shop can survive as a neighborhood fixture and an alternative to mass-market auto repair. “While we’re worried about the competition, we just focus one day at a time,” said Pete.
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