BERWYN – Nancy Gay remembers when she was a child, climbing up in the cab of her dad’s Diamond T and watching him run through 10 forward gears and putting on that sweet Georgia overdrive once on the open road for a milk run to Wisconsin.
That was then, and while the milk transport business is a thing of the past, Gay never strayed far from the family trucking business.
Berwyn Garage, 6838 W. 16th St., is celebrating its 80th year in business. Started in 1933, it changed from transporting milk to truck repair in the 1970s. In the 80s, it added buses to its list. Gay has served as president since 1985.
Started by Gay’s great grandfather, Matthew Navtipil, her grandfather, Lee, joined the business as a boy and later took the helm, followed by her father Lee Jr.
“My dad was slowly looking to retire,” Gay said. “I had a career in human resources at Chicago Bridge and Iron in Oak Brook. I was in personnel and did the hiring.”
Gay then joined the family business and learned the art of keeping big trucks and buses on the road.
“I oversee everything,” Gay said. “I know what I’m talking about when people call in and say, ‘I’ve got a problem.’ I troubleshoot on the phone and schedule them in.”
Gay said it’s the personal touch that has kept the business in business. It hearkens back to a day when deals were made and kept with a handshake.
“It’s more of a personal-touch business, which comes from my father,” Gay said. “He was the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. He was everybody’s buddy. He had many, many friends. That’s where my personalized approach comes from. He would help anyone out, day or night.”
A majority of repairs are made on fleet vehicles, with customers like the Burlington Northern Railroad and numerous school districts. There are a total of six employees at Berwyn Garage, including Nancy Gay, and her husband, Bob, their brother-in-law, Jim Mrizek and three other mechanics that Gay called “exceptional.”
So what’s it like being the only woman in a shop full of men?
“I’ve heard everything,” she said. “I don’t care to repeat it.”