Manuel Garcia: Once Upon a Time in Portugal
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
SAN LORENZO — Growing up in Portugal, Manuel Garcia got an especially early start in the auto body repair industry. “I got my first automotive job 53 years ago, at the age of 12,” he says. “My family didn’t even own a car—few people did in those days—but I wanted to get into a profession and thought automotive repair would be a good career to pursue.” According to Manuel, his adolescent employment wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in his particular setting. “Back then, it wasn’t unusual for a 12-year-old to have a full-time job…it was just a different time and place.”
Later, Manuel came to the United States, where he continued to work in the auto body industry. Eventually, he joined the team at George McGill’s Body Shop, Inc., and in 2000, he took over ownership of the business with his partner, Luis Toste. Today, after all his years in the industry, Manuel says the most valuable thing he’s learned is the importance of honesty. “When you’re honest and deliver what you promise, that creates a bond between you and your customers. Plus, as a member of the San Leandro community, I see my customers all over town, so it feels good knowing I can go anywhere and not have to worry about running into a disgruntled former client.”
Outside of work, Manuel spends the bulk of his time with his family, which consists of his wife, Maria, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. “Pretty much all of my free time is dedicated to my family,” he affirms. “I enjoy going fishing, camping, and just getting together with my kids and grandkids. I also like to travel. In addition to going to Europe every year, I own a place in the Azores Islands, where Maria and I like to go to relax when we get a chance.”
When asked what his future retirement might look like, Manuel says he’ll spend more time pursuing the pastimes he currently enjoys. “I probably won’t do anything much different from what I do now—just more fishing, camping, traveling and, of course, relaxing.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: A night owl.
Q: What’s your favorite sports team?
A: S.L. Benfica, Portugal’s premiere football [soccer] team. Here in the U.S., I like the Golden State Warriors.
Q: What was your first car?
A: A ’74 Ford Pinto station wagon.
Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: Thanksgiving—the whole family gets together, but it’s not a commercial holiday like Christmas.
Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
A: My health.