When Darius Brown left the cities of Atlanta for California, he never imagined a place like the Mendocino Coast. He had separated from his wife, and she and their children had moved to Fort Bragg. He followed to be near the children.
“When I heard of California, I thought of Los Angeles, a place that’s always sunny and warm,” he said with a laugh. He arrived at Point Arena, where the demographics and cold weather horrified him. “I said, it just won’t work.”
That was until he met Fernando Gordon and went to work at Gordon’s Automotive. “I was staying at the Pine Beach Inn. I had only been working at the store for a week when he came and gave me enough money to move into a place and a car to drive. That’s the kind of guy he is. said Brown. “He didn’t know if I was even going to stick around.”
But Brown has been doing it, for 13 years now. He and his fellow mechanics, Sergio Macias and Dylan Stipe, were at work all day Tuesday with Gordon, although their collective workplace had just burned down in the early hours of Sunday morning. A fourth employee had just started as an intern and was unavailable on Tuesday.
“This place is more than my workplace. It’s my life. Fernando gave me a chance to change my life and I changed my life here,” Brown said. They have fond memories of their children playing together at the end of the working day. Many personal items, personal tools and documents were lost in the fire. “It all started there. It’s a total loss,” Gordon said.
The group amicably greeted a steady stream of community members who arrived to check on them and lend their support – which included, at the time of publication, nearly $11,000 raised by a GoFundMe campaign led by Fort Bragg High School teacher Tara Larson. (Donate here). The fundraiser will benefit Gordon and other store workers, all of whom said the money was crucial at the time. Gordon plans to rebuild the business.
The group greeted visitors with smiles and even a few laughs as they waited together to support the skipper in a meeting with insurance representatives and others who had come to check out the wreckage. Some people brought good wishes. Others brought food or gifts.
“If it weren’t for the generosity of this community, we wouldn’t be laughing at all right now, it would probably just be tears,” said Brown, who has come to love the community if not the cold weather. . “That love and sharing from that community has been incredible, truly incredible,” Gordon said.
The Fort Bragg Fire Department has yet to determine what caused the fire. Fire Chief Steve Orsi said the intensity of the blaze made it difficult to rebuild the blaze. He said the theory for now is that there was an electrical problem in the rafters in the southeast corner of the building. A small fire likely grew into a destructive blaze after breaking through the roof and penetrating tar paper and fiberglass up there. “It’s very difficult to pinpoint an exact cause,” Orsi said.
Because the fire started well after midnight, it probably burned for a while before anyone noticed it and called. We were in defensive mode,” Orsi said. Firefighters arrived about eight minutes after being called.
They were also concerned about the pink Victorian house at 520 N. Main Street that shares a wall with Gordon. At first, firefighters didn’t know if anyone was home or not. A passerby, who came across the blaze early on, apparently threw a rock through a window, but luckily no one was home to be rescued. The firefighters managed to save this house, quickly extinguishing all the sparks that spread to the roof. The only visible damage was a partially melted skylight and the broken window.
There were no injuries that night, but the fire was accompanied by a near miss for firefighters. Firefighters are busy spraying the storefront. They decided they had better back off quickly. No sooner had they done so than the front wall collapsed to the ground where they were standing, Orsi said. The collapse crushed and melted some customer cars. “Kudos to them for being vigilant. The wall came down pretty quickly,” Orsi said.
Gordon rose through the ranks of a mobile auto repair business short of his truck, starting in 1996, expanding into two more stores before establishing the distinctive baby blue store on N. Main Street in the heart of downtown . As far as we can remember, the building has always housed a car workshop or another. It was Hood Automotive when Gordon bought it 17 years ago. Prior to that, he had previous lives as a Stout’s Tire, OK Tire, and even as a Studebaker dealership. The building was constructed with cement blocks and mostly metal siding, so it didn’t seem vulnerable to fire before it was. The fire burned so hard that the metal tanks became tired and appeared to have melted into the floors in the front part of the store. The store was always full of cars, both inside and out. A dozen customer cars were lost in the fire.
Brown, who is also a musician, recorded a song called Working Man with a line about Fernando Gordon. “I am a worker and always will be. It’s me now. Fernando has been a mentor to me and a teacher. I’ve never met my dad, but he’s the closest I’ve had and he helps a lot of people,” Brown said.
“He’s a good boss and a teacher. All these guys are my teachers,” said Stipe, another shop mechanic. He also didn’t have a car when he started and planned to go. to work on foot, but most of the time Brown or Macias or Gordon would show up and take him in. great people,” Stipe said.
Customer Steve Schoolman, who stopped by the store on Tuesday to cheer on Gordon, said Gordon deserved all the support. “Twenty-two years ago, we bought a house here. We bought a van from a lady and she gave us a warranty – but only if we brought our car to Fernando. I only know him through business, but he’s a great guy. We share family stories and it’s amazing what he does with cars. It’s sad to see that,” Schoolman said.
Read our previous coverage of the fire here.