AVOCA — In the middle of an emotional morning, Mike George sat in his office and reflected on his 49 years serving borough residents on Main Street.
George, 75, is the owner of Packers Garage, and Dec. 29 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 tired 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.”
A lifelong resident of Avoca, George 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 team selected Notre Dame player and Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung as its 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 in 1967. He bought the Main Street location, and on Dec. 29, he completed his final 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 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 him well in retirement. Customers brought gifts and hugged him 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.”
Reach Brigid Edmunds at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds