Roger and Betty Gray opened the garage March 23, 1963, in a lot where Big R is now located, at the intersection of routes 66 and 116. The lot came with a building and a junkyard, which they weren’t all that interested in.
“It was a junkyard with a garage and we put up a new building. We worked on anything and everything, especially Volkswagens, which we stocked a lot of parts for, and trucks, because nobody else around here wanted to work on trucks or Volkswagens,” Roger Gray said.
This part of the story made me smile:
They can add that memory to others, like all the stranded motorists they have helped, clothed, fed and housed until the bad weather passed or they got new transportation. They’ve also done other memorable pro bono work, like when Roger and his grandson, Kevin, took a trip to Springfield to tow the Bob Waldmire bus to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac.
“I had people ask why we would do this for free and I told them it was simple. If everyone in this town that wanted it to grow would do one little thing, this town would change and it would grow. I look at it now and look at all the stores and different ways people are making money. Before, all the stores were closed and there were empty buildings. So that’s what started it – people started helping,” Betty Gray said.
Gray’s Garage is no longer on old 66 — it moved near the intersection of Interstate 55 and Illinois Highway 23. But three of their children work in the garage, ensuring that Gray’s will remain a family business indefinitely.