Guy & Sons Auto Rebuilders closes up shop after 56 years
September 7, 2018

Photo by Christopher Valentino
Guy & Sons Auto Rebuilders offered repairs at fair prices. Their friendly service made them a West Loop favorite for decades.

By Eva Hofmann

Guy & Sons Auto Rebuilders, formerly at 1050 W. Van Buren St., officially closed its garage doors on Labor Day. A highly respected business in the community, the shop was started in 1962 by the late Guy Pascale.

“Mom and Dad moved to Chicago in 1959 from Erie, Pennsylvania,” said Guy’s elder son, Dan Pascale, who joined the family business in 1974. “Dad worked for Earl Scheib.”

In those days, the Earl Scheib franchises specialized in repainting automobiles and repairing them after collisions. They were known for the catchphrase, “We’ll paint any car, any color, for $29.95.” Guy Pascale was responsible for opening all the Earl Scheib shops in Chicago.

“Dad wanted to go out and do his own thing, so in 1962 he rented a little three-car shop,” said Dan. “It was a horse barn that was converted to a garage.” That shop was located behind Roosevelt Road and Miller Street, and that is where Guy’s Auto Rebuilders quickly earned its reputation for doing a good job at a fair price.

Dan would come in on Saturdays and days off from school to learn how to paint. “His landlord was Roosevelt Glass, and that was a nice tie-in,” Dan continued. “And there was a used car lot on Miller Street and Roosevelt Road. Dad bought these old junkers and would paint them and fix them up and put them on the lot, so off the bat he had an instant clientele and developed relationships with some of the insurance companies.”

Dan’s brother, Tom Pascale, remembers being in that shop at age six. “I remember my dad bringing me down and sitting me on a stool with this propane heater, and he actually had charcoal burning,” said Tom.  He recalled working weekends starting at age 14.

Neither brother actually had planned to work in the family business. Dan joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating high school in 1969.  “I loved it,” he said. “I met my wife in the Air Force, and I wanted to stay after three years. But dad got sick and needed an operation, and he wanted me back in the shop. And that’s how I came back and it ran off from there.”

Younger brother Tom studied painting and sculpture at Triton College for two years after high school but ultimately came back to join the business. “It was easy to fall into working on vehicles,” said Tom. “I watched my dad do it, so I just did it.”

Van Buren move

In the early ‘70s, the Pascales moved the shop to its West Van Buren street location, where it remained until closing. There, Guy and his wife, Pearl, renovated the three-story building and built an apartment above the shop, where they lived from 1973 until they passed away in 2010. “They got to experience all of what the Near West Side was,” Dan said. “Nobody lived there under the Eisenhower at the time. Everyone was in the Little Italy area. They loved going to Fontano’s and Pompei Bakery, loved Greektown. Café Bohemia was the ultimate treat on a Saturday night.”

Guy and Pearl Pascale got a chance to enjoy some quality time in Florida for 12 to 15 years after they retired. “It was beautiful for them,” said Dan. “We took care of everything. When they started getting older and not feeling so good they came back. Dad got diagnosed with leukemia, prostate cancer, COPD, and was on oxygen. It never slowed him down. He worked in the office. He was always there.”

“Dad was a real Near West Side pioneer,” added Tom. “He did everything. He worked with the plumber and put in the sewer, and he put in all the light fixtures. It didn’t matter what the job was—he just did it, and we just came along for the ride.”

Longtime customers also remember the elder Pascale. “I knew Guy for over 55 years, and he was a great man,” said Mario “Skippy” DiPaolo of Mario’s Italian Lemonade. “He was a very fair businessman and did great work on cars. Like father like sons, the sons took over and kept the same quality of excellent work as their father had before them.

“In my opinion they were the very best body and paint shop in the city and suburbs by far,” said DiPaolo. They were also a great source of information and were always available to help if I ever had any questions.”  

Guy & Sons has fixed cars for the likes of Jerry Reinsdorf, Ernie Banks, and Keith Magnuson, to name a few luminaries. There were plenty of other longtime customers from the neighborhood as well.

Photo by Christopher Valentino
Dan Pascale and Tom Pascale, who took over the family business from their father, were known for making sure Guy & Sons personnel did superior work on cars.

‘Best body shop’

According to George Lemperis, owner of Palace Grill, Guy & Sons is “unequivocally the best body shop in the City of Chicago,” he said. “I’ve known them for 40 years—I knew their father. They’re two of the best guys you’d ever want to meet. It’s Chicago’s loss that they’re leaving. In fact, I’m taking my car there tomorrow, and it’s one of the last jobs they’re doing. They’re staying open for me.”

Lemperis isn’t sure who will repair his cars in the future. “I don’t want anyone else touching my car,” he said.

Of course, this might be a good time for Guy & Sons to call it quits after all those long hours in the shop. “The work ethic was 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., then go to dinner and paint a car after dinner,” said Tom. “It was constant 12-hour days, and you didn’t get two weeks in a row if you went on vacation. We used to call Saturdays eight-hour half days.”

Now that vehicles are becoming more high tech, the shop would need some serious upgrading, according to Tom. “We’re the last of a ‘70s era shop,” he said. “The repair side of it has changed for us because we don’t have an electronic technician. We’ve worked on some fancy cars, but it was always about mainstream collision. These days you have to scan a car before you work on it.”

Another challenge in the industry, according to Dan, is dealing with insurance companies.  “We have to take a shot at the insurance companies who are trying to squeeze the independent auto repair shop,” said Dan. “They’re raising rates on policies and premiums and cutting back on fair prices to fix the cars. So this is a good time to exit because I’ve had enough. State Farm was just there today and told us more things are just going to get worse.”

Customers are not happy about the move. “There is nobody that compares to them,” said DiPaolo. “We will all just have to drive a lot more cautiously…because we will definitely have a hard time finding a good auto body shop that will produce the same quality of workmanship as they did. We will miss their excellent work, but mostly we will also miss them as friends. They were always friendly and so helpful, and you were always completely satisfied with their work. We wish them all the very best and hope they enjoy their retirement years.”

Tom is not sure what will come next for him, and Dan’s short-term plans include cleaning out the Guy & Sons premises.

Dan noted that his father, Guy, “did what he wanted to do and he wanted to do it for us. This was his plan to make sure his kids got taken care of. I’m hoping that the sale will benefit my kids and Tom’s kids. That’s what we live for. It’s sad to say goodbye to so many of our customers. They’ve been stopping by. It’s almost like an old rock star going on a farewell tour.”