- Article from Aurora Sentinel
- BRANDON JOHANNSON, The Aurora Sentinel | November 11, 2010
AURORA | When Jim and Trudy Mazzo started JM Auto Service in 1965, the young couple wasn’t exactly flush with cash.
After they bought the equipment to turn a small garage near Kingston Street and East Colfax Avenue into a body shop, they had about $300 on hand.
That bit of cash was supposed to be the working capital to get the business started, but Trudy said they soon found out that the phone company and power company each wanted a $150 deposit – sums that would have left the couple with nothing.
“It was hard,” Trudy Mazzo said in an interview last week. “We started with no working capital.”
Luckily, because of some pleading by her late husband, the couple managed to avoid the deposits so they could get the business up and running.
Today, that cash-strapped start is just a distant memory for the Mazzo family, which still owns JM and also owns John’s Towing and Chambers Road RV.
In the coming weeks, all three companies are set to move into a new building near East 33rd Avenue and Chambers Road, a sprawling facility that is a far cry from the early days in a small garage in northwest Aurora.
“We’ve been a part of the community for so long and we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in 45 years, so we are really excited,” said Jim and Trudy’s daughter, Vicki Simmons, the company’s treasurer and secretary.
Simmons’ sister, Adrienne Pietrafeso, is the company’s vice president. Pietrafeso’s husband, Ron, is the general manager.
Not long after the company’s start in 1965, the Mazzos outgrew the original garage and bought up nearby space to expand.
By 1980, JM took up much of the east side of Kingston between 14th Avenue and Colfax.
That year, Jim and Trudy purchased John’s Towing.
The tow company already had a contract with the city of Aurora when the Mazzo family purchased it and grew steadily over the next two decades.
In 1985, Jim passed away and his wife and daughters took over the company.
Trudy said that a short time after her husband passed, she got a call from the phone company about that deposit they waived two decades earlier. She said the phone company called with their condolences and to say they were glad they waived it because the company had never been late with a payment in 20 years.
Without Jim, the company was one of the few woman-owned businesses in the automotive industry.
And while that isn’t common in the automotive industry, it is even less common in the towing business, Adrienne Pietrafeso said.
But, she said, it has proven to be a benefit for the company, particularly with female customers who have been treated poorly at other shops.
“Especially in the auto business, they have either been not treated right or they feel intimidated,” she said. “That’s been a big plus, I think.”
By the late 1990s, the towing company had outgrown the space on Kingston Street. In 1999, the family purchased land at East 27th Avenue and Chambers and moved the towing operations as well as their new company, Chambers Road RV, to a five-acre site there.
Two years later, they expanded again and bought land across the street for their boat and RV Rental Company.
Outgrowing a particular location has been a common occurrence for the companies over the past four decades, but Simmons said that shouldn’t be an issue with the 19,000-square-foot facility because it has room for them to grow and add staff.
“We will definitely be able to add employees,” she said.
Pietrafeso said it will also be nice to have all three companies under the same roof, something they have never had before.
“It wasn’t the best set up,” she said of the separate locations around Aurora. “We made it work, but it wasn’t the best.”
The new facility is also environmentally friendly, with a high-efficiency oil burning furnace that will burn the used oil from the vehicles for heat.
The company also plans to make the new facility available for community groups to use for fundraisers like car washes and other events.
“It will be a nice to have the new facility so we can do some of the things that we want for the community,” Pietrafeso said.
When they set out to find a new location, Pietrafeso and Simmons said they never really considered looking outside of Aurora.
One reason is the towing contract with the city. Another is the abundance of loyal customers in Aurora.
But the two Aurora natives who spent much of their childhood at the family’s shop said that beyond the obvious business calculations, Aurora has just always seemed like the company’s home.
“I think we have always felt loyal to Aurora,” Simmons said.