Back on May 28, 1978, Dom Duraes made the long trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Bradford to purchase a garage and welding shop at Canal and Simcoe roads, or Jonkman’s Corners.
Duraes and his partners launched D.A.G. Eagles, offering welding and repairs for vehicles and farm equipment, and his family began to settle in to the new community.
Among their new neighbours were Frank and Dorothy Jonkman.
“Our first neighbours, our first Christmas — our kids played together,” remembered Dom. “They taught each other to ride bikes.”
There was some adjustment. The Jonkmans weren’t thrilled the first time Duraes grilled sardines on the barbecue, and his wife Clotilde’s Easter gift of a live chicken caused more consternation than delight.
But the friendship thrived, and the Jonkmans were among the invited guests on Saturday, as Duraes, sons Vasco and George, their families, staff and friends celebrated the 40th anniversary of D.D. Eagles & Sons Inc.
From that first garage on Canal Road, Duraes branched out on his own, moving to a location on Bridge Street, and renaming the business, D.D. Eagles & Sons. In 1985, just months before a devastating fire swept through the Bridge Street building, the garage moved to its current site at Highway 11 South 20420 in Bradford West Gwillimbury.
About 15 years ago, Vasco took over the business, when Duraes decided to retire for health reasons.
It was touch and go, initially. A sale to a buyer outside the family was pending, set to close on a Monday, when Vasco, egged on by wife Charlene, family members and friends, decided to take the plunge and take over the business. That was on a Friday.
“It was an easy transition,” Vasco said.
While brother George wasn’t that enthusiastic about working at the garage, Vasco had always enjoyed it. Even while studying engineering drafting and design for a year, and then taking tool and die technician classes, neither of which he was too fond of, he would come in on weekends to help out.
“I always wanted to be here,” he said.
The garage celebrated its 40th anniversary on Dec. 1.
“It’s always a great pleasure to celebrate businesses that are long-time businesses in Bradford West Gwillimbury,” said BWG Mayor Rob Keffer, presenting a certificate of achievement to Duraes, Vasco, their families and staff. The mayor praised D.D. Eagles’ “service excellence and dedication to the community.”
“I work with the best people in the world — they’re like my best friends and my family,” said Vasco, “and, of course, I get to see my dad every day… I had it easy. My dad did all the hard work.”
Duraes said the secret to success was “to have faith, faith in God, to keep the dream alive and be persistent.”
He noted that D.D. Eagles has kept the trust and friendship of customers for 40 years. “That makes me so happy and proud.”
D.D. Eagles & Sons Inc. recently renovated and modernized its office space and waiting area. A NAPA Autopro service centre, the shop currently has six bays, and employs six mechanics or certified technicians.
Vasco said he is proud of the decision to continue the business his dad began, and its tradition of service, especially in today’s difficult market.
“Realistically, I don’t see how anybody starts a business these days,” he said, noting independent garages are, by and large, a thing of the past. “It’s all big chains now.”
But not at D.D. Eagles & Sons.