AVOCA — In the middle of an emotional morning, Mike George sat in his office and reflected on his 49 years serving residents of Avoca on Main Street.
George, 75, is the owner of Packers Garage, and Friday was his last day in business.
“I bought this place when I was a kid,” he said.
The green-and-gold gas station and mechanic shop is hard to miss when driving down Main Street. George painted it the colors of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers — which happen to also be the colors of Avoca High School — in 2009 after some disagreements with bigger gas station companies.
“I got fed up with (big) companies,” he said.
George said he was sick of people from the corporations telling him what he could and couldn’t do with the business, so he bucked the system and went independent.
“It’s probably the best thing I did,” he said. “Business blossomed big time.”
George, a lifelong resident of Avoca, grew up on Packer Street, and explained that Packermania runs deep in Avoca.
He said he’s been a Packers fan since 1957 when the Green Bay Packers selected Notre Dame player and Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung with the first pick in the NFL draft.
George, a football player at Avoca High School, idolized Hornung, and even wore his jersey number.
“He was my idol,” he said.
According to Times Leader archives, George’s paint job brought a lot of attention to the garage. Two carloads of fans from Shenandoah made a special trip to see the garage. Fans from New York State have stopped by. And once in a while travelers from Wisconsin hop off the interstate to check the garage out.
George had another gas station downtown that burned down in 1967. He bought the Main Street location, and on Friday, he completed his last state inspection, using the last of his inspection stickers.
George said he’s been looking to sell the business for about six months, but a recent fall led him to have to close the doors before finding a buyer.
“It’s tough when you know every customer by their name,” he said.
George said customers stopped by all morning, all to wish George well in retirement. Customers brought gifts and hugged George after filling their tanks.
He said it was hard not to get choked up, and that he never thought “people thought that much of me.”
“It’s a great feeling to go out this way,” he said. “It’s like one big family.”