Hill auto garage still in high gear after 68 years

by Gregory Starks
Posted 8/19/21

Roanoke Garage, 31 W. Willow Grove Ave., has been a staple in Chestnut Hill for 68 years. The D'Amico family has owned and operated this small garage and kept engines running in the community for all of it.

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Hill auto garage still in high gear after 68 years

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Roanoke Garage, 31 W. Willow Grove Ave., has been a staple in Chestnut Hill for 68 years. The D'Amico family has owned and operated this small garage and kept engines running in the community for all of it.

Currently there are four family members working at the garage; Phil, Dave, Phil’s wife and Dave’s son.

Phil and Dave both have been working at their father’s garage since they were teenagers. They both grew up in Chestnut Hill and are graduates of Cardinal Dougherty High School. It is rare to see businesses last for so long, and Phil Jr. attributes their success to pure endurance and willpower.

As cars evolve and parts change, the D’Amicos had to be nimble in their knowledge of mechanics to stay up with the latest trends and technology. Even though they are professional mechanics and have been around for many years, they are always going to crash courses to learn more about how cars are being built and the newer parts being used.

The current owners' dad, Philip A. D’Amico Sr., died Aug.15, 2017, at St. Joseph’s Villa in Flourtown at the age of 90. Philip operated the Roanoke Garage for 44 years until his retirement in 1997, when he turned it over to his sons. A lifelong mechanic known as “The Fox of Roanoke,” D'Amico earned a reputation for high-quality work. Even in retirement, he would show up at the garage most days, often with a pot of pasta “for the boys.” Born and raised in Chestnut Hill, he attended Jenks Elementary School and Dobbins High School. During World War II he served in both the U.S. Army and Navy.

Owning a family business has its ups and downs, but at Roanoke it’s mostly good. “The ups are that it’s our business,” said Phil. “We can open and close when we want. The downs are that you can’t close much because you need to pay your bills.”

“It goes both ways, really,” said Dave. “It’s got good, and it’s got bad, but it’s like a marriage. Most of it is good; we get along.”

Despite Covid, the garage has mainly been unaffected as they maintained a steady business flow. “We closed for six weeks at the very beginning,” said Dave, “and then went right back at it. Everybody was still driving.”

The Chestnut Hill community has changed over the years, and for the D’Amicos to see people leave is like seeing an era come to an end. “It’s sad really,” said Dave. “You get to know their car, their kids and their family. They’re bringing in cakes and pictures; it’s really a family thing. It’s sad to see them go, especially when they pass away. It’s like ‘wow, I worked on that guy’s car for 30-something years.’ It’s sad, you know.”

Phil and Dave both agree that working on cars is what they love to do, but it’s the people who make it worthwhile. “There are a lot of good people in this area,” said Phil.

“A lot walk by,” added Dave. “We know everybody. It’s like a family here.”

“Right now Dave’s son is working with us,” said Phil. “He’s third generation; hopefully he’ll take over and maybe a couple friends, or maybe let us cut down to a couple days a week.”

“I told him cars will be flying in here when it’s his time,” said Dave. “You know we’re already seeing a lot of electric hybrids now.”

Online reviews of Roanoke Garage average well over four out of five stars. A typical review on cartalk.com says: “They squeeze us in and always do a great job. They are friendly, honest and informative. They recently checked out a used car we were considering purchasing and advised us against buying it, saving us a lot of headaches and money! We love these guys!”

The only real downside has been the inability to take time off since the garage is their source of income. But for the first time in Roanoke Garage history, they will be taking two consecutive weeks off this year. Phil is going to the Poconos, and Dave is going to the Jersey shore.

“One week doesn’t cut it,” said Phil. “You’re just getting into a groove, and then you’re back to work the following week.”

For more information, call 215-247-9249.

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