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Landmark Williamsburg garage closes down; owner Cichy pledges to ensure place is preserved

Landmark Williamsburg garage closes down; owner Cichy pledges to ensure place is preserved

WILLIAMSBURG — Cichy’s Garage has been in Mitchell “Mitch” Cichy Jr.’s family since 1964, and the automotive repair shop has been a feature of downtown Williamsburg since 1928.

Just prior to Sept. 1, Cichy closed down the business. Since then, however, Cichy has been investing in renovating the town landmark, and he wants to make sure that it remains cared for and beloved in its next chapter.

“The future is far from determined,” Cichy said.

As for what that future might be, Cichy said he’s interested in selling the garage to someone who will appreciate and take care of it. He also didn’t rule out reopening it after taking a break for a year or two.

“We’re going to continue to own it until we find the right person who’s going to take care of the place like we did,” Cichy said. “It’ll always remain like it is now. I’ll make sure of that.”

The garage was founded in 1928 and for decades was a gas station, towing business and repair shop. When it shut its doors, only the repair portion of the business was still ongoing, although people continued to fuel up at the gas station after it got out of the gasoline business, which Cichy said was 15 to 18 years ago. That’s because for at least 10 years, Cichy has had an electric charging unit at his garage, which people have been able to use free of charge ever since.

“It just felt like the right thing to do,” he said, of installing that first charging unit.

A new charging unit has recently been installed at Cichy’s Garage, although that will charge a small amount of money for the service.

“It’s enough to pay the electric bill,” he said. “Doesn’t make money.”

In terms of other renovations, Cichy has connected the garage to the main water line and is having improvements made to the building.

“I want to put enough time and money into this place that somebody’s not going to want to tear it down,” he said.

Cichy’s father, also named Mitchell Cichy, bought the garage in 1964 and gave it its current name. The original sign pole and sign from 1928 are still on the property, and the business’s old Mobil pegasus sign has also been preserved — the result of Cichy and his father hiding it when the company came to collect it. Perhaps the most iconic part of the garage is the pole with the circular sign up top, which once held a Texaco sign, and which Cichy said was a major wayfinding mark for people in the pre-GPS era.

Cichy grew up working at the business, and at the turn of the millenium he purchased it from his dad. Cichy also once worked at the Northampton Police Department, and he chose to become a part-timer on the force so that he could spend more time raising his two sons, something the garage made possible.

“I was able to have my kids right next door to me the whole time,” he said. “I went to every sporting event, picked them up from school every day.”

The garage property has test ports on it, which Cichy said were installed against his lawyer’s advice.

“How can you sell , or even give the property to your kids if you don’t know the property is clean?” he said.

Cichy said that the property is indeed clean, and he also expressed pride at the business being able to coexist with the Mill River, above whose banks it stands.

Cichy, 56, is now a full-time police officer in Easthampton, and he said that doing that work and running the garage had become too much. For the last year his youngest son, Collin, ran the garage, to see if he wanted to do so full-time.

“I want to make sure I’m not giving up something that I want to do,” Cichy said, paraphrasing his son.

Cichy described that year as the easiest of his career at the garage, but at the end of it Collin chose not to continue.

Both of Cichy’s sons also work with him at the Easthampton Police Department, and Cichy said he wants to continue doing police work for as long as possible.

“I am getting to the point where I’m one of the oldest,” Cichy said.

Cichy also expressed tremendous gratitude for the customers of the garage, and said leaving generations of families was the hardest part closing down the shop.

“They’ve supported three generations of our family,” Cichy said. “How can you thank them for that?”

Bera Dunau can be reached at [email protected]