Eric Mallory reopens his garage after health issues


Eric Mallory stands in the bay of Mallory’s Automotive in Forestdale, open again after some health issues forced him to close shop for several months. Photo by Steven Jupiter

FORESTDALE—Eric Mallory has probably fixed your car.  After 30+ years in business, he’s had his head under the hood of nearly every car from Salisbury to Pittsford.  But earlier this year he had to put his tools aside for a while because of health issues that required intensive treatment.  Just this past week, though, he threw open the bays of his garage at Mallory’s Automotive in Forestdale and welcomed back his clients.

“I had pancreatic cysts.  Not cancer, but it can lead to it,” he said at his shop.  “I was hospitalized twice.  The doctors thought they might have to take out half my pancreas, but they ended up not needing to.  I have to take enzymes now to digest my food.” 

It’s been a rough stretch lately.  On top of his own health problems, he lost his father earlier this year and his stepfather had to have a heart valve replaced.  Then his own pancreatic issues reared up and required that he take care of himself.  For folks used to taking care of others, it can be tough to slow down and give themselves the care they need.

But Mallory is back at work, though he’s pacing himself as he gets his strength back.

He’s had his garage on Forestdale Road since 1992, when he bought it from Pete Lester.  He’d been working as a mechanic for a Chevy dealership in Middlebury, and then in his grandfather’s garage on River Street in Brandon.  He was already married to his wife, Brenda, and had two kids, Jessica and Matthew.

“My grandfather told me ‘You need to work for yourself,’” Mallory recalled.  And with a little financial help from both his grandfather and father, he decided to give it a go on his own.

The first plan was to lease a garage with a gas station in Brandon.

“I thought having the pumps would be good revenue, but my lawyer called just before we signed the papers and told us to back out,” Mallory said.  His lawyer had just found out that the lease stipulated that Mallory would’ve been responsible for the underground holding tanks even though he would’ve been renting the premises.  Since there was no way to determine the tanks’ condition, he backed out rather than assume liability.

A COLLAGE OF photos and other memories hangs in the front office of Eric Mallory’s garage in Forestdale. He’s been open in this spot since 1992.
Photo by Steven Jupiter

But he found a home in Forestdale, where he’s been serving the Brandon community ever since.  The automotive repair business has changed a lot, however.  Back when he was getting started, a car was a machine.  These days, it’s more akin to a computer.  To stay competitive with the dealerships in Rutland and Middlebury, he’s begun offering detail work as well.

“Cars full of dog hair are the worst,” he laughed. “I charge extra for that.”

And given the physical strain of the work on a mechanic’s body over the years, Mallory is beginning to think about retirement.

“You can only do this for so long,” he said.  He’d very much like to find someone to take over the garage.  He’d like to spend more time at his family’s camp off High Pond Road. Hunting and stock cars at Devil’s Bowl—he’s worked on cars there and sponsored teams— are two of his favorite pastimes.

“My retirement is selling this business,” he said.  Not only would he like to sell the business for financial reasons, but he’s also become quite concerned about the loss of commercial activity in Brandon.  A born-Brandonite, Mallory has been alarmed by the diminution of the business community in town since he was a kid.

“It’s not the same town it used to be,” he said. “We used to have a lot more businesses.  We used to have a department store.  Now you have to go to Walmart in Rutland just to buy underwear.”

In the meantime, he’ll continue to serve the community.  His son, Matt, a VTC grad who works for Silver Maple Construction in New Haven, lends a hand in the shop when he can, as do his grandsons, Austin, Emmett, and Jasper, aged 15, 13, and 9, respectively.  He’s especially proud of his grandsons’ honesty: not long ago, Emmett found a valuable ring in a client’s car and returned it to her, bringing tears to the client’s eyes.

“I take great pride in putting out a satisfied customer.  I love to help people out.”

As we spoke, several people stopped by the garage to check in with him.  The open bays signaled he was back to work, and folks just wanted to say hi.

“I got cards and letters from every church [while I was ill].  The show of compassion and love was very humbling to me,” he said.  “I’m blessed to live in Brandon.”

So whether you’ve got a car full of dog hair, a temperamental transmission, or faulty brakes, Mallory is back on his feet and ready for business.

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