BRATTLEBORO — Alan Scott will allow his lease and used car dealer’s license to expire at the end of the month. 

“I have never regretted running my own business, not for one minute,” Scott said Wednesday in an interview about his retirement at his Putney Road garage. “It beat the hell out of working for someone else every day of my life. Instead of one boss, I had hundreds, and they’re all easier to get along with than one boss. No regrets. That’s my bottom line.” 

He’s been in business for more than 45 years. He moved to Westminster from Connecticut in 1971. 

“I had no direction in my life whatever,” he said, remembering how he found a job in a Brattleboro garage the next day. “I told the guy I was an experienced mechanic, which I wasn’t. He was dumb enough to believe me.” 

Having worked at the garage for five years until it went bankrupt and out of business, Scott said he learned a lot. A service manager was “very patient and willing to teach me,” he recounted. 

“It was a lot to teach, a lot for me to absorb,” he said. 

His start in the industry involved working on Fiats and BMWs in the space where One Stop Country Pet Supply is now on Putney Road. He ended up buying some equipment from the owner in a bank sale, putting it away in storage with plans for the future. 

A job at a garage in Putney lasted about a year and a half. 

“I flew out of there angry one day and never went back,” Scott said. “I said, ‘What the hell am I going to do with my life?'”

At that point, Scott knew he couldn’t work for other people. He decided he would have to run his own business and partnered up with a friend.

Each man rented half of the space. Scott’s friend lasted a few years.

“He didn’t have too much discipline,” Scott said. “He sort of went bankrupt, too.” 

Scott hired an employee and the business “just took off,” he said. He fell into working on Saabs after his former business partner left one in pieces after leaving.

The customer asked Scott to put the car back together and Scott took it for a drive. 

“I said, ‘Wow, this is a cool car,'” he said. “I have to have one of these. I have to work on these.” 

Scott said he was “a self-taught, self-proclaimed Saab specialist for many, many years” until “the Saab company went belly up in 2011” and he started seeing fewer and fewer of the cars. From there, he worked on whatever came along, still only imports. 

Over the years, he’s had several employees. He said Betsy Hoffman was “a great technician, really knew her stuff.” 

Scott described Hoffman being “instrumental in creating the latest incarnation of the state inspection program with onboard diagnostics and automatic sticker printing system.” He said an Englishman then joined him for years before retiring. 

Paul Waters worked with Scott for 16 years until he was 45 and diagnosed with a brain tumor. He died within a year in 2018.  

“I’ve been working alone ever since … and I still miss him intensely,” Scott said. “We got along really well. We’d have our days we’d fight like cats and dogs.” 

One day, Scott said, a customer walked in on an heated argument and told them they needed couples counseling. 

In 2001, Scott obtained a used car dealer license. He started buying a bunch of Saabs at auction for resale. 

“That whole thing took off like a rocket,” he said. “It was crazy. People were giving me orders.” 

Customers would ask for cars in black or red, or with a stick shift. Scott would come home, put tires and brakes on the vehicle then sell the vehicles. 

That changed when the Saab supply dried up. Scott said he had to start expanding his horizons.

“Like most guys, we end up doing what’s popular,” he said. “So it’s Hondas and Toyotas now.”

Scott said he’s been planning his retirement “a year at a time.” He noted his wife Colleen Scott has been helpful in a variety of ways. 

Colleen has transported cars from the auction, completed paperwork, chased parts and pumped pedals when Scott needs to bleed brakes. He credited her for being “instrumental in my success in recent years.” 

John McKay, who died in 2022, encouraged Scott to seriously enter the used car market. McKay brought him to his first auction and he became hooked. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scott estimates the number of used cars at the auctions has been reduced by half. He said quality also has significantly declined. 

“The cars are terrible, rusty, crazy high mileage, needy as all hell — tires, brakes, driver’s seats worn through,” he said. “Just everything’s wrong with them. It’s hard as hell to buy a decent car that I’m not going to have to pour a bunch of money into and thin the profit down to next to nothing.” 

During a chip manufacturing shortage during the pandemic, Scott said, “good quality, late model trade-ins absolutely ceased.” 

“That has recovered somewhat,” he said, “but it’s still not what it was 10 or 15 years ago.”

Scott doesn’t see the situation getting better in the near future. He said the issue has played into his retirement. 

“I’m in great physical condition for a guy my age,” he said. “I’m pushing 74. There’s no reason I can’t keep working on this level.” 

Scott cited outside forces, and supply and quality of cars as challenges in the current market. With rising prices for everything, he said, “I just don’t see where the automobile picture is going to get better.” 

Scott will miss the business. 

“I already do, just knowing that the end is coming so close,” he said. “It’s keeping me awake at night, let’s put it that way.” 

He said he might have stayed open another year and renewed his dealer’s license if he could have gotten a concession on rent. He already stopped working on cars for customers. 

Annually, he’s been selling about 60 used cars. That can keep a business busy without anything else, he said, having gotten bored with some of the standard auto mechanic projects, such as brake replacements and state inspections. 

“I love selling cars and I really enjoy interacting with people on both fronts, the repair area and used car sales,” he said. 

He said he intends to keep his good reputation until the last day of business. 

Equipment from the garage is being advertised on Facebook Marketplace. Scott said he’s selling lifts, valuable diagnostic tools, a brand new machine that works on air-conditioning in cars and “lots of small, nickel and dime things.” 

Scott said he’s had “many hundreds of customers” and he’s appreciated them all. 

“I’ve been friends with some of them, strictly business relationship with others,” he said. “My early years, I was prone to being a little grumpy. If someone got a little pushy with me, I pushed back. I got a reputation for being kind of crabby and short tempered but I outgrew that.”

Scott called patience “a wonderful thing.” 

“I learned to keep my mouth shut and listen to people, let them tell their story in its entirety, their way, then digest it and figure out how to approach the problem,” he said. “I learned to be nonjudgmental. I also learned very early on to speak to people about their cars in lay language whenever possible.” 

Technology introduced in recent years makes it next to impossible to work on new vehicles, Scott said. 

“If you’re not working at a franchise owning dealership, you have no access to a whole hell of a lot of information,” he said. 

Although there’s a federal law requiring manufacturers to make technical information and equipment available, he said, many of them make it so costly that it’s essentially unavailable. 

Scott doesn’t see much of a future for mechanics running their own garages. He said dealerships offer good pay, hours and benefits. 

Having someone else work on his car will surely be a strange experience. 

“I can’t imagine it,” he said. 

He hasn’t paid anyone for such work since he was a teenager. Even back then, he said, he was learning things about the trade. 

His plans for retirement involve fishing and traveling with his wife. The couple lives in Brattleboro. 


By admin