Duff's Service Houlton Maine Auto Repair

Phone (207) 532-2061

306 Bangor Street
Houlton ME 04730


Duffs Service

PARTNERS— John Cassidy, left, and Carl Duff, center, pose here with a friend during the 50s. Cassidy, the original owner, hired Duff, his son-in-law in the 4Os. The service station was also a dealership for Studebaker trucks as well as a place to fuel up.

Duff’s Garage marks decades in Houlton

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 in Hodgdon.

“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 Duff.

Being in the automotive business for so long has given Duff the chance to see amazing transitions in the automotive world.

“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 long?

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 garage.

“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 8.

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 time

Duffs Houlton

THE ORIGINAL — The original building that houses what is now Duff’s garage began with the building above owned by Duff’s father-in-law, John Cassidy. The garage has seen several expansions over the years including the addition of another bay to the work area.


(NOTE: Since this originally appeared, Carl has retired and Tom now runs the business.  His wife Nancy is also involved, taking care of the books.  The most important things stay the same:  Duff's Service is a family run business, committed to offering you the best possible service, and real value for your hard earned dollar.)

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This article appeared in the May 5, 1999 issue of the Houlton Pioneer Times.  At the time we were preparing for our Spring Open House.  We feel the article does a nice job of  presenting our history up to that point.