First of all, let me say that I am very fortunate to be able to work in a family business, one that has been around since 1939. Most businesses don’t survive one generation, let alone three!
Finns has been located at the same location on East Main Street near the four corners of Webster. Back then, Main Street was where everything was happening. You had the Webster Grange (at one time the world’s largest grange hall, the gathering place for the farming community, now known as the Harmony House) right across the street and the Webster Hotel (where the Gerard P. Smith Insurance Agency is) one block down at the four corners.
From the beginning the brothers, Wilfred (Wolf) and George Finn, found their calling – that is, to service the community through helping folks maximize the use of their automobiles. They found a wonderful opportunity through a gasoline sales venture. At that time, gasoline companies were falling over each other to sell fuel. They chose the Texas Oil Company (Texaco) and sold gasoline for almost 40 years.
Soon after selling gasoline came the natural move into auto repair. Fixing cars correctly the first time, making the vehicle safe and reliable for the population, has been what has kept Finns Garage going from the beginning. Not all business ventures work out well. One of those that didn’t pan out so well was selling bicycles. There wasn’t too much maintenance needed on bikes and therefore that was dropped. Towing cars was a valuable business option though. We towed cars and trucks from the 1940’s to 2008 and had been the oldest tow company on the east side of Rochester, NY.
By 1965 Timothy Finn (my father) started working full time in the family business. He worked with his father George (retired in 1974) and Uncle Wolf.
Mid-Eastern politics found their way to American soil and in 1973 the fuel crisis hit, leading to rationing gasoline. I can still remember signs out front stating: “Gas Until 12:00 Noon”.
In 1976 the oil companies decided not to cannibalize each other’s profits and they divvied up the markets. Since Texaco moved out of upstate New York, the company sold the property to Tim and Wilfred Finn. For the next ten years they sold unbranded gasoline and then had the pumps and tanks removed.
Wilfred decided to “retire” from the business in 1986, although much of his time was still spent at the garage. An addition was added to the rear of the building and we continued to fix Webster’s cars and trucks and tow as well.
In 1996 I started working full time at the shop, after working part time on and off since I was ten years old. At first I was writing service, performing minor auto repairs, and towing. Later, I was doing everything else a small business requires of an owner. In 2007 Dad retired, but always made himself available for towing and daily errands.
The biggest change in my lifetime was getting out of the towing industry. We now have some very competent towing partners that we work with.
Early in 2010 Uncle Wolf passed away just short of his 91st birthday. He had been working on company vehicles up until then. The business will never be the same without him.
In 2012 we added on to the rear of the building and installed a state-of-the-art Hunter laser alignment machine/lift. Now we can service our customers better than ever.
In 2020, we rebranded our business to Finns Automotive to better reflect the full service auto repair we offer our customers.
We will see what changes await Finns Automotive and the town of Webster in the future!