Lincoln Auto Electric is closing. Photo by Charles Andrews

ANOTHER FAMILY BUSINESS LOST

Lincoln Auto Electric is gone. That’s a big loss to our city, of another long-established family-run business, due to skyrocketing rental costs and a City government that does everything to help out the developers who are forcing these small business out, and nothing to protect them.

We are becoming a city of “mixed use retail” and chain stores, mostly high end, because that suits the image of those driving our destiny. And if Santa Monica residents have to go to Culver City to get the right mechanic, or Mar Vista to get boots repaired, or West LA to get that off-the-wall video you can’t find anywhere else, well, so be it. That’s progress, isn’t it? That’s the Santa Monica of the future.

It’s a personal loss for me because Ruben and his family have been taking good care of my family’s cars for some 32 years, and over that time we have become friends. He always asked about my “girls” and I heard the latest on his big family. Five kids that he put through the best schools, including up to doctorate level. And wife Anna, who ran the office until eldest son Alex was able to slide in and let mom retire. Retire, from a full time job, six days a week, while raising five kids. I think she earned it. But Ruben soldiers on, there every day despite his age, 69, and two recent serious neck surgeries.

RUBEN SUCCEEDED

Nicely, thank you, for a tough kid from Peru, with a large home in Marina del Rey and all those school bills paid. But he went years between vacations, didn’t drive a six-figure Beemer, Jag, Porsche or Mercedes. Although he did work on them, even Lamborghinis, classic T-birds, Bentleys, you name it, I’ve seen them all in his lot. When we told him in ‘04 we were thinking of getting a Prius and hoped we wouldn’t have to go to the dealership, he said, I’ve already completed the hybrid course.

My family probably put one of his kids through at least two years of college, over those 32 years. But that’s fine. Ruben and his family worked their tails off, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and half of Saturday, for more than 40 years in Santa Monica, nearly all of that at his location near Lincoln and Ocean Park. (Also danged convenient for us, when you can leave your car and walk home and walk back when it’s ready.)

Not only was his work professional, guaranteed and fairly priced, but from the very first I was impressed that he always advised me, someone who can barely find a spark plug, whether he thought the work was necessary, necessary now, or whether there was a cheaper way to go to handle the problem. Imagine that. How many unwittingly pay thousands for work they don’t really need?

Lawyers, doctors, mechanics — you mostly have to trust them because you aren’t one, and comparison shopping is difficult. Having at least one of each of those you can count on, I’ve always said, makes life so much easier.

$8,000 TO $22,000/MO

That’s a jump big enough to make you jump all the way to Long

Beach, which is what he’s doing. Ruben said his longtime landlord told him a year ago, as he entered the last year of a 20-year lease, that he would take care of him, don’t worry, you’ve been a good tenant, Ruben. With less than a month to go he shocked him with the new figure and Ruben had very little time to find a new location. He was not able to find any place that worked in SM or even nearby.

For five or six years we talked about sitting him down to tell his life story for my column, and it was pretty amazing, especially prior to settling down in SM. But he could never find the time for that, even though I know he wanted to. I learned his story in dribs and drabs over the decades but no sense now trying to piece that together without him here. Ruben hadn’t been back to Peru for a long time, until the recent illness of his mother. Wife Anna, take-charge running the office but very funny and sweet, was from Argentina.

So Ruben, and Alex and younger son Nick, who is well on his way to becoming a master mechanic, will now have a slightly longer drive to work. But who will drop what he’s doing and give me a hearty greeting of “Carlitos!” and a fist bump from a greasy hand and immediately start grousing about corrupt politicians everywhere. How will I know what’s really up with the Lakers and Dodgers without Alex?

And here’s the irony: Nick is so well informed and curious about so many things we always had something to chat about, but the last thing he said to me was, So? — what’s happening now with the mural? He literally grew up with that Muir Woods mural across the street, and can’t bear the thought of it disappearing.

If we don’t make more effort to keep the people and things that have made this unique city great — then who are we?

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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4 Comments

  1. I’m curious who this landlord is? This makes me sad. So many vacant stores on Main Street and Lincoln. It feeling like the beginning of a ghost town. I’m not as proud to live here as I was 5 years ago. The budget market on 4th and Hollister has sat vacant for 2 years after the building was sold to the Michael and Jolene Rapino. The man who ran budget market was there for as long as I can remember always happy and said hello. Would carry anything you needed. Now it’s just a dark corner.

  2. It’s truly sad to see him go but why blame the city and politicians rather than the landlord who lied to him and jacked up the rent? What could the city possibly have done to prevent what happened? Plus I’m guessing apartments will be the likely replacement and is that so terrible given California’s severe housing shortage.

  3. I have the same exact story with Ruben and have been going for 20 years. He has watched my family grow up. Ruben always did an honest days work for every dollar you paid him. He made money the old fashioned way: he earned it. Unfortunately Santa Monica is no longer the place where we can have teachers who teach in the schools or mechanics who work on our cars live and work. The city is ABSOLUTELY culpable here for failing to zone properly; but they are just spinelessly fulfilling what the new residents want. Its sad that Ruben and his family business are so undervalued and the trust fund babies inhabiting Santa Monica are so valued to society. There is absolutely no question in my mind who is more valuable to society.

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