Duff’s Garage marks decades in
By Sam Macllroy
“It’s hard work and
you have to put the effort into it and be fair with people.”
That bit of
management philosophy from Carl Duff, owner of Duff’s Garage, is
what he said has kept the business going for the last 30 years.
The garage on the
Bangor Road has been a Houlton landmark since 1931 when it was
started by John Cassidy. Cassidy started the family business and it
grew from a small service station to the Willys dealership that
covered all of the County with the exception of the Caribou area.
In 1957, Cassidy’s
son-in-law and now owner, Carl Duff, came on as assistant manager
and served as a mechanic at the business. As time went on, a
Studebaker franchise was added to the growing business.
In 1969, Carl took
over the business from his father-in-law.
He first acquired an
interest in automobiles as a young man working at his uncle’s garage
“I took shop in high
school and worked for my uncle while growing up,” said Duff.
He continued to
receive training and has been involved with many different schools
so as to keep his skills sharpened.
Things have changed
over the years. The addition of lawn and garden machines in addition
to automobile repair and, a 24-hour wrecker service has kept Duff
busy. As time has gone by, Duff has passed on more of the
responsibility for today’s high-tech vehicles to his employees.
“I don’t do too much
work on the new cars, I just take the little easy jobs now,” laughed
Being in the automotive business for so
long has given Duff the chance to see amazing transitions in the
“Cars and parts today are so much more
expensive,” explained Duff. “In the old days, spark plugs used to be
75 cents; now they are $3.75. Now
we use scanners on the vehicles, but we used to use timing lights
and go by ear. There have been tremendous changes.”
Even after 30 years of owning the
business, Duff’s is still thriving and employs two people along with
his son Tom, who has been working with his father full time since
1981. What has kept this family-owned business moving forward for so
Duff believes that hard work and
customer service is at the root of his success.
“There are some families that we have
worked with for 25 to 30 years and they keep coming back. Fairness
has a lot to do with it,” said Duff.
Carla, Duff’s only daughter, is still
actively involved with the business and is currently helping her
mother, who has been keeping the books for the business for the last
30 years, convert the company’s records over to a computer. Carla
has been instrumental in making arrangements for the open house.
Carla also attributed her father’s
success with the business to outgoing personality and a desire to
keep fairness in business at a higher priority than becoming rich.
She also appreciates her parent’s ability to balance business with
work while they were growing up.
“All of us kids were brought up on the
wrecker, there isn’t any place we haven’t been with him in that
respect,” said Carla. Both Carla and her father took pride in the
fact that each member of the family, including all of Carla’s five
brothers, has had a .part in the business through the years. Duff’s
other sons; Dana and Peter, still live in Houlton and still help out
with the family business when they can. Jim in Alabama and Dale in
Bangor, both spent many of their younger years working in the
“We are just so proud to be a part of
this family and this business,” said Carla.
She brought attention to the fact that
her father, with the help of her mother Mildred, has kept the
business going .strong despite health problems and accidents,
through good times and bad times.
As a way to celebrate more than a
half-century of business, Duff’s will be holding an open house May
As a part of the festivities,
refreshments and balloons will be available, with a drawing for a
free White push mower, as well as a raffle for a Troy-Built roto-tiller.
The proceeds from the roto-tiller
raffle will be going to the thermal imaging camera for the Houlton
Fire Department, showing that local business and families can give
back to the community in which they have invested so much of their