The steel workbench in the back of Bracken Auto Services is splattered in dark grease stains from past automotive projects, but on Tuesday a new oily substance joined the mix: juices from rock cod and beef kabobs. Over a dozen friends and close customers gathered for a barbecue to celebrate Sean Bracken, owner of the auto repair shop, on the eve of his departure to a new automotive career in the East Bay.
“It’s a sad parting,” said Mr. Bracken, a Novato resident who ran the shop at Greenbridge Gas & Auto in Point Reyes Station for 12 years. “It’s been good to me, but my family has pressured me to move on and get rid of the stress.”
Working on cars has been a lifelong passion for the Dublin native who found his calling as a youngster repairing his brother’s motorcycle in their home garage. Their father, an engineer, imparted his interest in mechanics.
Mr. Bracken worked as an accountant for a wine import company in Dublin before moving to California in 1986. He earned an associate’s degree in auto mechanics from the College of Marin, and his first job was to maintain a fleet of 1,800 vehicles for a car rental service in San Rafael.
In 2004, Mr. Bracken responded to an advertisement on Craigslist for the garage in Point Reyes Station, creating Bracken Auto Services.
Mr. Bracken said it was a shaky start, but fondly recalled one of his first customers: Ilka Hartmann of Bolinas. “I like to say that I’ve been keeping her car going for 12 years,” he said.
He said Subarus have proven the most common vehicle at the shop, and Volkswagens the most difficult.
Rick Clarke of Point Reyes Station has been a customer for years. “Sean has always been very straight with me,” he said. “They’re big characters here, and it’s been a fun part of West Marin for me.”
Nacole Borg-Vongehr, Mr. Bracken’s sole employee, has worked as a mechanic at Bracken Auto for the last five years. She refers to Mr. Bracken as “Boss” and said he allowed her to work while she pursued an associate’s degree in automotive technology. “He’s taught me in more ways than one,” she said. “He believed in me.”
Mr. Bracken will soon begin a new job at MobilityWorks of Oakland, a company that specializes in serving the disabled community with wheelchair-accessible minivans, vans with lifts and commercial fleet vehicles. He said he’s excited to let go of ownership responsibilities and focus on repairs. “Someone else will diagnose the problem and I’ll fix it,” he said.
As for the future of the garage, Mark Reano, owner of Greenbridge Gas & Auto, said “things are kind of up in the air.”