Auto services

Bracken Auto Services closes garage doors

The steel workbench in the back of Bracken Auto Services is splattered with dark grease stains from past automotive projects, but on Tuesday a new oily substance joined the mix: cod juices and beef skewers. More than a dozen friends and close customers gathered for a barbecue to celebrate auto repair shop owner Sean Bracken on the eve of his departure for a new automotive career in the East Bay.

“It’s a sad parting,” said Mr. Bracken, a Novato resident who ran Greenbridge Gas & Auto’s Point Reyes Station store for 12 years. “It was good for me, but my family pushed me to move on and get rid of the stress.”

Working on cars has been a lifelong passion for the Dublin native who found his calling in his youth fixing his brother’s motorbike in the garage of their house. Their father, an engineer, passed on his interest in mechanics to them.

Mr. Bracken worked as an accountant for a wine importing company in Dublin before moving to California in 1986. He earned an associate’s degree in auto mechanics from the College of Marin, and his first job was maintaining a fleet of 1,800 vehicles for one car. rental service in San Rafael.

In 2004, Mr. Bracken responded to an ad on Craigslist for the Point Reyes Station garage, establishing Bracken Auto Services.

Mr. Bracken said it was a shaky start, but fondly recalled one of his first clients: Ilka Hartmann of Bolinas. “I like to say I serviced his car for 12 years,” he said.

He said Subarus turned out to be the most common vehicle in the shop and Volkswagen the toughest.

Rick Clarke of Point Reyes Station has been a customer for years. “Sean has always been very direct with me,” he said. “They’re great characters here, and it’s been a fun part of West Marin for me.”

Nacole Borg-Vongehr, Mr. Bracken’s only employee, has worked as a mechanic at Bracken Auto for five years. She calls Mr. Bracken a “boss” and says he allowed her to work while she pursued an associate’s degree in automotive technology. “He taught me in more ways than one,” she says. “He believed in me.”

Mr. Bracken will soon start a new job with MobilityWorks of Oakland, a company that specializes in serving the disabled community with wheelchair-accessible minivans, vans with lifts and commercial fleet vehicles. He said he was happy to let go of his ownership responsibilities and focus on repairs. “Someone else will diagnose the problem and I’ll fix it,” he said.

As for the garage’s future, Mark Reano, owner of Greenbridge Gas & Auto, said “things are up in the air.”