Jim Peeler reported to work at his father’s auto repair shop on Roseland Avenue in Caldwell 40 years ago Wednesday.
It was Jan. 23, 1973 and 23-year-old Peeler had just finished his service in the U.S. Air Force. He was married and took an apartment in town close to Peeler’s, a business his dad, Edward, started just up the block in 1948.
At the time, the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad crossed over Roseland and ran alongside the shop, carrying freight as it headed to Verona, Cedar Grove and beyond.
Eight years later, in January 1981, Edward Peeler retired and Jim took over the business. He would ultimately acquire the property that belonged to the defunct railroad and use the extra land for parking.
In the early 1990s, he removed the gas tanks (selling gas was no longer worth his while) and concentrated on the auto repair side of business.
“It’s too long to be in any one place,” Peeler said from his shop Wednesday. “It’s been quite an experience.”
Peeler said his customers span multiple generations and include “people who were customers of my father’s in the 40s and their families, and it just goes on and on.”
“Word-of-mouth is the best advertising going,” he said.
After moving to Verona, putting two sons through college, remarrying and moving back to Caldwell, Peeler said he looks forward to retiring in a handful of years.
He joked that he thinks about retirement “every day” and plans to spend his golden years doing more fishing.
Peeler said his secret to longevity has been “treating people fairly, not selling them things that they don’t need.”
“A car is expensive enough without treating things that don’t need to be replaced,” he said.