Jeff Grieff first started helping around his dad’s Mobile Station on the north end of Princeton by picking up trash when he was 10 years old.
“I was doing it more for fun every once in a while and then dad would let me pump gas if it was a customer he knew well,” Jeff said.
When his brother, Greg, who was born on Jeff’s seventh birthday (”my best birthday present”), was old enough, he would mow the grass and “just do little things here and there” around the station.
“I remember he gave me an old carburetor once and had me tear it apart,” Greg said. “Never did get back together, but I tore it up.”
The Grieff brothers have kept the family business running for five decades at two different locations. On Thursday, June 30, the Grieffs will close shop with Jeff, 64, moving into retirement and Greg, 57, exploring other avenues.
For the brothers, they believe it’s been a good ride.
“We appreciate everybody’s business over the years,” Greg said. “We’ve had fantastic customers.”
“We’ve been very blessed,” Jeff added. “The Princeton community is amazing.”
The Grieffs both said they couldn’t have done it without their dedicated employees, like Kim Rich and Brian Fogarty, who were with them for over 20 years.
“We really appreciate all of the past employees contribution to our business and it’s success,” Greg said. “We have had some of the best dedicated employees we could ask for.”
Warren Grieff, their father, who was trained to be a mechanic in the service during the Korean War, started the family business on Route 66 in Odell. When I-55 came to town and thought to uproot his business there, Grieff moved his young family to Princeton in 1969 and started up Warren’s Mobile Station just off I-80.
He then moved his business down the road as Warren’s FS in 1977. They got a 30-day notice to vacate their building due to a gas contamination on the sight and moved to their current location on Railroad Avenue in 1992 with the help from a church friend, Dick Nelson, reopening as Grieff Auto Tech.
“We were pretty lucky,” Jeff said. “Dick Nelson heard we were in a hurry to look for a building and offered us this building, which he had Pep Engineering in. He had part of his operation in Walnut and part here and he was looking to move it all up there. He cleared out early down here. We came in one day and he was actually scrubbing the floor himself along with some of his helpers getting cleaned up for us and it ready for us. Very kind gesture.
Warren Grieff stopped working full-time in the early 1980s, but was known to continue to lend a helping hand from time to time. Diagnosed with cancer in March 15 of 2006, Warren passed away in May of 2006, three years after his wife, Helen, passed.
The Grieffs’ dad left a lasting example to shape how his boys have ran their family business.
“He was a quiet guy. It wasn’t any thing he said, it was more of his example, I would say. Just treat people right, be honest, do your best,” Jeff said.
The brothers said they have been able to work out any differences of opinion and have had a great working relationship over the years.
“We have some differentiating philosophies, but we’ve always worked around them,” Jeff said. “I’ve heard so many other family businesses that couldn’t make a go. We’re pretty blessed. It can be a challenge from time to time, especially when you have an age difference. We’ve always been in different phases of life, which make your perspectives different.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve been able to do for 30 years plus.”
The brothers said they both have had their own strengths which has helped their business thrive.
“Luckily, he likes the paperwork and I liking work out in the shop,” Greg said.
“I always say Greg’s the muscle and I’m the mouth,” Jeff said with a laugh.
Jeff joked that his trademark line as he reads over the itemized bill saying “and the governor gets” when it comes to the sales tax has occasionally offended people because they thought he was against the current governor when his line has become common place regardless of who is in office.
While Greg looks to explore his next business adventures, Jeff knows exactly what he will be doing in retirement.
“When you run a business, a lot of things at home get neglected,” Jeff said. “My wife’s (Mary) plan is to work two more years. So if she can stay out of my hair, I’ll fix all of the things that need fixing at home.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle