By Ashley Luthern
At one local auto shop the Christmas spirit isn’t a seasonal feeling.
It lasts all year.
The sign for Christmas Automotive Repair (CAR) gets attention for its Christmas tree design in the winter, but even more so in the summer.
“A lot of people go by and see the tree and see the lights and wonder why,” said business owner Tom Christmas Jr.
The inside of the shop at 6602 Market St. remains festive all year, too, with a Steelers Christmas tree and flags hanging in the window that depict Santa Claus and a snowman wearing Steelers garb.
“We put this up about five years ago. Everything stays up, nothing comes down,” said the lifelong Steelers fan.
Christmas says word of his good reputation — and memorable name — has spread throughout the Mahoning Valley.
“If you treat people fairly and if they trust you, they know whatever price I give them is fair. I’m not going to get rich, but I’m here to help people,” he said. “I try to base my business on Christian principles and try to live them, though sometimes it’s not easy.”
Christmas, his wife and their five children embrace their family name, too, and it was his children who named the shop.
“In the beginning, growing up, it was crazy. I heard everything, every name and comment you could think of,” he said.
Christmas’ grandfather came to the U.S. from Sicily and Americanized his name to Christmas.
“His last name was Natale and that’s Christmas in Italian,” he said.
Christmas said he learned a lot about business from his father, Tom Christmas Sr., who has operated Christmas Garage Door Co. in Austintown for more than 30 years.
“My dad knows how to treat people. He said treat people with respect and they’ll keep coming back,” Christmas said.
His father said he taught his sons, Tom Jr. and Ralph Christmas, who has a business on U.S. Route 224, to always put the customer first.
“I remember the first thing I ever told him is do the job like you were doing it for yourself,” Christmas Sr. said.
Like his son, Christmas Sr. incorporated his memorable name into the business.
“When I first started, I had a great big picture of Santa Claus on my truck. It was memorable,” he said. “Kids used to call and ask to talk to Santa Claus. I’d ask them if they were good and try to learn what they were supposed to get for Christmas, instead of saying I can’t be bothered. That was a fun time for me.”
Christmas Jr. said he enjoys the decorations and carrying on the family name in his business. He said it felt like the business was “meant to be” on Market Street.
Before he opened Christmas Automotive a decade ago, he worked for Midas and other service operations. Then his wife, Clair Christmas, had a vision, he says.
“For weeks she had a vision, a dream, and she saw this shop, but she didn’t know where it was,” Christmas Jr. said. “One day she was driving by and slammed on her brakes, and we knew this is where we’re supposed to open up a business. It just went boom, boom, and we’ve been doing good ever since.”