As Gilbert’s downtown has largely reimagined its vintage buildings as hip new eateries and entertainment venues, Clement’s Automotive Repair has preserved its historical structure and use in the Heritage District.
Located near Gilbert and Elliot roads on the outskirts of Gilbert’s redeveloped core, the auto shop is the town’s oldest continuously operated business. Purchased by Tom Clement from Continental Oil Co., or Conoco, in 1934, the shop is now owned by Clement’s sons, Paul and David.
Originally a hybrid filling station and garage, Clement’s Automotive Repair focuses solely on general repairs and maintenance these days.
Able to sleep at night
The garage has outlasted so many others because it can afford to be honest, David said. Owning the business’s assets outright means the brothers have little overhead.
“We can work without selling something to somebody that they don’t need,” David said. “I mean, we’re not getting rich, but we’re able to go home and sleep at night without a bad conscience.”
The brothers can also credit their longevity to their ability to shift gears as technology has disrupted their industry. David, the younger Clement, has taken it upon himself to attend classes organized by part suppliers that educate technicians about increasingly complex and computerized vehicle components.
“It’s just completely different than it used to be,” David said. “When my dad was doing it, if he couldn’t find a part, he would have to make it. He would rebuild his own water pumps and starters. I even did that.”
With Gilbert’s evolving downtown, traffic around the shop has increased dramatically.
Though the Clements tinker with the idea of selling, offers have not rebounded to pre-recession levels, and they remain hesitant.
“It’s cold feet,” David said. “You think about it, and it sounds really good, and then you sit back and think, ‘Oh, well, what are we going to do [next]?’”