Trying to find an auto mechanic, especially one that you trust, is enough to bring even the most grounded person to hysterics. Thankfully, our community has Frank Renda (seen above with his son, Frank Jr.), owner of Superior Care Auto Center (120 19th Street at 3rd Avenue).
“He’s been in business in the South Slope for over 20 years,” said employee Megan Walsh, “and in that time has amassed thousands of customers, many of whom he greets with a kiss, as he treats them like old friends when he sees them. Everyone knows to bring their dogs with them to their car appointments since Frank is a dog lover and always has a treat on hand for them.
“I’ve never met a more honest person, let alone mechanic,” she continued. “He literally goes out of his way to make sure that his customers spend their money wisely and recommends only what is necessary to keep their car running well.”
A neighborhood fixture since 1984, Frank started out with a shop on 16th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue, and moved to their current location on 19th Street in 2000.
The Sunset Park native’s love of automobiles started well before his professional debut in the early ’80s, though.
“When I was younger, cars and racing were the only thing that interested me, as far back as I can remember,” he told us. “I mean, I grew up in the muscle car era. Big engines, very fast cars, inexpensive gasoline, hanging out on the corner; everybody had a hot rod, the heyday of the muscle car era. I guess you could say that I went into the business because I was interested in racing.”
As in many industries, technological advancement brought about the realization that, in order for the business to survive, it had to move along with the times.
“Over the years there were certain things we didn’t do — anything electrical, anything computer related,” Frank said. “And as years went on, the need for that knowledge increased as cars got more sophisticated, and we knew someone in the area who we had used for many years. That was Charlie over at Superior Alarms.”
Superior Alarms and Frank’s original shop, Pro Care, merged in 2001 to form Superior Care.
Despite name changes and shifting neighborhood demographics (a condo currently sits on the site of Frank’s original 16th Street shop), a few things at Superior will never change.
“Our people,” said Frank. “Our desire to please. Our knowledge of the fact that it’s not easy to get good, quality work done these days. We clearly explain what we do, how we do it, and why a repair is necessary. We treat our customers as we want to be treated. As basic as that seems, that’s something that is very much overlooked these days. We care.”
Unfortunately, small businesses like Superior face an uphill battle in the years to come, as big business and gentrification continue to descend on our community.
“Certainly we want to continue along the lines that we’re traveling on,” Frank explained. “We want to continue just giving the best possible service that we can give. I don’t know. The state, the city is making it hard for every type of business to survive unless you’re a big box store now, unless you’re a major franchise.
“Mom-and-pop joints are disappearing, from what I’ve seen,” he continued. “The cost of doing business in the city is just…you can’t keep up with it. It’s very difficult to maintain a legitimate business. So again, in the years to come we’re not gonna be around. You’re not gonna have little people like us around. They’re not going to be able to afford it. They’re not going to be able to have the information or the money to spend for the equipment that’s going to be necessary.
“Starting a business these days, I can’t imagine,” said Frank, “unless you have big, big money behind you, and the right people to run it and work in it, which also is very difficult.”
Additionally, a work force of trained, experienced mechanics is very limited, he said. “There are not many good people out there to draw from. That’s clearly been a problem we’ve had over the years. Every year it gets worse and worse, there’s no question about that.”
At least for now, though, we can take solace in the knowledge that Frank and his crew are here, showering South Slope auto owners with the same customer-driven service they’ve been exemplifying for over 20 years.
“We’re here to help and advise and guide,” said Frank. “What else do we do? Fix and fix.”
Special thanks to Megan Walsh for her help with both the photographs and the interview itself.
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