Joe Gurreri shared this photo of some of the mechanics at O.K. Service Garage, in the former AAA building at 116 E. Market St. The service area was on the second floor, and a car elevator took cars up for service. Joe's uncle Nick Gurreri is at left; next to him is another of Joe's uncles and Nick's brother, Bernie. The one in the white shirt is Joe's namesake, his uncle Joe, another Gurreri brother.
Gurreri Motors: Longtime York garage soon to close
When I wrote seeking memories of local service stations last fall, I had no idea how many I’d receive. I’ve been sharing them here and there, but today, I have a special one that I want to focus on.
This information came to me from Joe Gurreri of York. Joe wrote to me, “My family has been in the automotive business in York City for over 80 years. I own and operate Gurreri Motors Auto Service at 100 E. Princess St. in the Royal Square District of downtown York.”
Joe noted, “My father, William A. Gurreri, started G.I. Service Garage in 1952 at North Duke Street and Gas Avenue. In the early 1960s, (it moved) to 1225 N. George St. and then 1018 E. Princess St. In the early 1970s, he bought a large garage at 147 S. Newberry St. at Princess Street. Unfortunately, in 1972, Hurricane Agnes came along and totally wiped out the contents of the building. He did reopen at that location for a short time until York City Redevelopment bought him and most of the area out and tore his building down. It is still an empty lot. He then bought 600 W. Market St. (now Miles Muffler) and named his new garage Gurreri Motors, which had auto sales and service including an auto body shop and gas pumps.”
Joe noted that this Gurreri Motors location was where he started his auto career. His dad, he said, opened at the East Princess Street location where the business is now in 1980, and Joe bought it in 1985.
Joe had a number of photos and cool stories about his family’s history to share, but I would be remiss if I didn’t start with one of the most important points: He wrote to me again a couple of weeks ago and told me that he is retiring and will be closing Gurreri Motors at 100 E. Princess St.
I received his email only a day or two before I found out that the Tom’s in Dover had just closed. While that was no longer a service station, it sat at the location of my family’s longtime service station, Ralph’s Exxon, run by Ralph Glatfelter for many years. Hearing about that closure reminded me of Ralph, and then hearing that Joe was retiring made me realize how important it is that I keep collecting these stories!
Joe was able to give me even more of his family’s mechanical history. He wrote, “My dad got his start, as many of my relatives, from his older brother Nicholas Gurreri. ‘Uncle Nick’ went to automotive school in New York and brought his knowledge back to York to train his family in the business, beginning O.K. Service Garage at 200 W. Philadelphia St. doing auto service and even new and used vehicle sales. He then opened a garage at 116 E. Market St. (the former AAA building) repairing cars on the second floor, with an elevator taking the cars upstairs to service.”
He continued, “In the 1950s, Uncle Nick opened up at 1261 E. Princess St. along with his daughter Barbara (Mundis) selling some of the newest cars around and financing them. He then opened up auto salvage yards, which his brother-in-law Harold Gemmill operated on Camp Betty Washington Road, and Gurreri Brothers on East Prospect Road, which his sons Larry and Tom ran. He then sold 1261 E. Princess St. to my cousin Sam Iacono, who then opened East End Nissan in the late 1960s and later built the new car dealership at 1510 Whiteford Road.”
And there are more automotive Gurreris! Joe wrote, “My cousin Nick Gurreri Jr. opened Gurreri’s Body Shop in 1960, which he later renamed Colonial Body Shop, at 974 E. Princess St., which he owned and operated for over 30 years. His brother Rodney owns Rodney’s Used Cars, which, along with his son Steve, sells used Jeeps and Jeep parts.”
Joe concluded, “A lot has changed in the auto industry in the past 80 years, with electronic controls on all aspects of the vehicle and now moving into full electric vehicles. Future training will take a degree in electrical engineering to repair vehicles, which is a long way from a ‘grease monkey.'”
Joe, I guess you’re right, and I feel the same way about my chosen industry of computers (specifically my full-time job of web development). I used to be able to actually understand everything my computer did, and now I have this very fixed set of skills and even those consist of a lot of Googling and tweaking! (A relevant quote, from Eugene Wigner, an American physicist who lived from 1902 to 1995: “It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.”
All that said, Joe, I am so glad you were able to share your family’s storied auto history with us. I have seen so many of the businesses you mentioned and had no idea there were so many connections between them!Have questions or memories to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.