The Sobolews know their cars – Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Posted: Friday, August 15, 2014

It’s always interesting when you walk into a business through marriage. There is a history long before you existed, but before you know it, you become part of that fabric.

“This was something that I didn’t see myself doing, but it is something that I have enjoyed ever since I have been here,” said Sharon Sobolew, co-owner and wife of Anatol “Ski” Sobolew.

The couple owns Howard Road Garage at 51 Howard Road in Gates. Serving the auto industry as a family business since 1963, they provide complete auto repair, fleet service and maintenance. In addition, they install aftermarket automotive accessories, such as cruise controls, power windows, power door locks and heated seats. Sharon Sobolew said the business prides itself in its highly trained and experienced staff of mechanics.

There has been a garage on that property on Howard Road since 1934. But the Sobolews got into the mechanic business around 1963. That is when Anatol’s father, Nick Sobolew, and a friend purchased the shop. Soon Sobolew was the sole owner.

While the business always repaired cars’ mechanical parts, it began to specialize.

“We focused on putting air conditioning units in cars. It’s amazing that there was a time when that wasn’t automatically sold in a car,” said Sharon Sobolew. “They used to bring a fleet full of cars and drop them at the business and that became our special niche.”

The business expanded into heating systems and gradually became the full service business it is today.

Anatol Sobolew grew up watching his father, Nick Sobolew, working in the business. He gained experience and soon became part of the business himself. Sharon Sobolew joined the business a decade ago to fill the gap after her father-in-law retired.

Years later, one of their three sons, Josh, 21, slowly moved into the business. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father.

“We never pushed him to go into mechanics. This was something he was motivated to do,” Sharon Sobolew said. “He told us he wanted to run the shop one day and so we are in the process of teaching him the business.”

Sobolew said there are two important aspects that are key to working together with family.

“First, you have to have some time where you are separated from the business,” she said. “It can’t be a situation where you are always talking about the business at home and then talking about it at work.

“But secondly, you have to establish clear work and home life titles. Here, I am not Mom, I am a boss. That can be hard to understand that at first, but it has all worked out because we kept the lines of communication open.”

Story by Ernst Lamothe Jr., a freelance writer from Rochester.

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