Auto shop

The Day – Family car store in Quaker Hill closes after 80 years


Waterford – A welcoming white building at 73 Old Norwich Road has been the location of the Scotch Cap gas station, a neighborhood auto repair shop, where a Dunbar has worked under the hood for around 80 years.

Dennis “Denny” Dunbar said he put a sign on the front window when he took office in 1979, but the business has been operating without a large sign since it ceased to serve as a gas station at the late 1990s.

Sign or not, his clients know where to find him, and most of his new business has been done by word of mouth.

Now, however, there is another sign on the window.

“To our valued and loyal customers, Scotch Cap Service will close its repair business on September 30,” he said. “We have deeply appreciated your patronage and loyalty throughout the nearly 80 years that my family has been here at this location.”

Dunbar, the third generation of family mechanics to operate the business, closed the store his grandfather, Harold Dunbar, bought in the early 1940s after working for the first owner. The shop is family owned and has been a cornerstone of the Quaker Hill community ever since. His grandfather passed it on to his father, Kenneth Dunbar, who passed it on to him.

Dunbar said some customers have been coming to the store longer than him, adding that some regulars will stop by just to chat.

After working at Scotch Cap for nearly 40 years, Dunbar, 62, has announced he will be retiring. His two daughters didn’t want to run the shop, nor did his loyal 20-year-old assistant mechanic, Patrick “Ricky” Rowe.

Rowe grew up in the house next door to the store and was 18 when he started working with Dunbar. He said he had spent 20 years working with his best friend Denny and most cherished the wisdom, guidance and love he received from the Dunbar family.

But, unable to keep up with the technology involved in cars these days, Rowe said he’s up to try something new.

Having no one to pass the business on to, Dunbar chose to shut it down and bring it to market.

“I had a great time,” he said. “I wouldn’t have done it for so long if I hadn’t.”

So far, the building has received only one offer, Dunbar said, and it is not clear whether it will remain an auto repair shop. He said for the sake of the neighborhood, he hopes so, but that will depend on who buys it.

The building looks like a house, and at one point it was literally Dunbar’s house. Dunbar said his entire family lived upstairs before moving into houses on Dunbar Road, the street that is named after the family.

Although Dunbar has said he is grateful for the company, which helped his daughters go to college, he is ready to change the pace.

“I’m happy to have finally come to a point where I can retire,” he said. “It’s time to slow down.”

Some regular Dunbar customers are not as happy with the closure.

Steve Kenn and his partner Kim McCaig were at the store Monday, not over a car problem but to “yell” at Dunbar for leaving, as McCaig put it. Kenn said he went to school with Dunbar and had been coming to the store for a long time.

“He will be missed,” McCaig said.

She said Dunbar was trustworthy, having been there for great times in McCaig’s family life, such as the time Dunbar checked out her daughter’s car before she moved to Las Vegas.

Bryan Sayles, who has been a Quaker Hill customer for 11 years, described Dunbar and Rowe as “earthly, fair with prices, and honest” qualities he said were hard to come by.

Sayles said Dunbar and Scotch Cap are a “dying breed” of friendly little neighborhood auto stores, noting that things are now “very corporate and impersonal.”

Dunbar said he works hard to keep the business going and get to know his customers.

“For a customer,” he said, “it’s good to know who is working on your car.”

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