The Recorder

Staff, customers reflect on Vern’s impact to the community

Morgan Frisch/Recorder staff People mingling at a farewell party for Vernon O’Brien Friday.

Morgan Frisch/Recorder staff People mingle at a farewell party for Vernon O’Brien, of Vern’s Auto Body and Sales, Friday.

By MORGAN FRISCH

Recorder News Staff

Friends, family, current and former staff and customers could be found at Vern’s Auto Body and Sales Friday to bid farewell to the owner who served them for 33 years.

Vernon O’Brien, who’s retiring from the car business, will be turning over the key to Joe Carubba, president and CEO of Carubba Collision, on Thursday, Sept. 28. O’Brien had no idea there would be a party in his honor until he arrived at work, noticed a few things out of place and heard “surprise” from two staff members.

“There’s a lot of people here today who have just been so supportive of me and my family,” he said.

Before his party, the day was dedicated to staff and customers. Doughnuts, coffee and memorable photos could be found in the lobby.

O’Brien’s wife, Sherry, invited everyone and planned the event.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming in during the day and having a coffee and just saying hi,” O’Brien said. “People in Amsterdam are really heartwarming people.”

He couldn’t thank his wife enough.

“Behind every successful business man there is a devoted wife,” O’Brien said. “If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have what I have.”

Seeing Carubba at the party was also a surprise, since he had to travel from Buffalo. But this gave him the opportunity  to mingle with the regular customers and staff.

Mike Kwiatkowski has been doing mechanical work for Vern’s for 12 years.

“It’s very customer orientated,” he said, explaining why so many people came to pay respect to Vern. He said most of the customers have been coming there “forever.”

Kwiatkowski said the customers are like family and know them on a first name basis. He said O’Brien treated the staff very well, with lunch on Fridays and would give time off when it was needed.

Bill Menge, who’s the longest standing employee of 32 years, said it’s unusual for someone to stay at a small business for so long.

“It has to be a good place to work,” he said.

Menge said they always treat people right at Vern’s and agreed with Kwiatkowski that he has been seeing the same customers for years.

Gregory Leal has been on the staff for 23 years and said he just got comfortable there. When he started, Vern’s was at the Route 161 location. He recalled enjoying restoring customer’s cars and classics.

“I enjoyed seeing the finished product,” he said.

Leal mentioned how the business has always been involved with the community, whether it be parades or holding a haunted house at the facility.

Ed Schultz, a former employee of 17 years, said O’Brien knew him since he was a kid. He started towing for O’Brien part time and that somehow turned into 17 years. He said when he accepted a job with the city, O’Brien was happy for him and always has been there for him and his family.  Schultz said O’Brien really deserves to enjoy some time for himself.

“He wasn’t like a boss, he was more than that,” he said.