YORK-Chances are longtime York County residents have filled up their tanks, obtained a yearly inspection, had a car towed, or sought vehicle repair from Cliff’s Auto Repair over the past seven decades. After working at the family-owned and operated business since he was 17 years old, Gary Alderman, 68, officially sold the business on June 10 to Ryan Jenkins and Chris Fairbanks, the owners of No Limit Auto for the past nine years, which is just a few miles down the road from Cliff’s near Walmart on George Washington Memorial Highway in Yorktown.
Gary Alderman’s father, Cliff Alderman, who passed away on October 19, 2010, grew up in the Virginia mountains and moved to the area from Meadows of Dan in 1948. After working for Yorktown Cab Company for a few years, he found employment with Johnny Lloyd, who owned an Esso Station on the Yorktown waterfront. On July 29, 1954, Lloyd and Cliff Alderman opened a filling station in the current location of Cliff’s Auto Repair, located at 8427 George Washington Memorial Highway.
Lloyd also bought a Gulf station across the street from their first station, where Yorktown Library is currently located.
“We had them coming from both directions with the full-service stations at the time,” said Gary Alderman. When Lloyd decided to retire, Cliff Alderman owned and operated both stations for more than a decade.
“At that time, my dad saw the writing on the wall and gave up his lease on the station across from Cliff’s current location,” said Gary Alderman. “We weren’t selling the volume of fuel anymore because self-service was coming into convenience stores and people were becoming accustomed to self-service and saving money.”
There was a Cliff’s station on George Washinton Memorial Highway for close to a half century, and it had a number of different names, Cliff’s Esso, Cliff’s Citco, Cliff’s Gulf, Cliff’s Chevron, and Cliff’s Union 76.
After selling the second location, Cliff Alderman decided to put all his eggs in one basket and revamped Cliff’s original location to allow more space for repair.
“He added onto the building and ended up having six garage bays in addition to selling gas,” said Gary Alderman. “At one point, my dad put a barber shop in the station. He had a close friend named Eddie Edmondson who had a barbershop at the Yorktown waterfront for many years. When Eddie left there, he wanted to continue to work, so they put up a partition and Eddie ran the barbershop there for over ten years.”
The Aldermans didn’t have to rely on marketing for drumming up business; they relied on word of mouth and reputation.
“We started out with Cliff, and when he retired and Gary took over, we continued to come back,” said longtime customer Sue Gabler. “We loved them both from day one. They were reliable and always made time for your repairs. They were known for their workmanship as well as their honesty.”
New owners Jenkins and Fairbanks aren’t changing the name of the shop.
“My business partner and I talked about it, and the business has been a staple in York County for such a long time,” said Jenkins. “Gary has such a good reputation that we felt we could use the name while modernizing the business somewhat. We offer DVIs, or digital video inspections, that we’ve received good feedback from customers on at No Limit Auto. You can see a video, or picture, that displays what repairs need to be made so that you can understand what we’re talking about. We try and improve transparency as much as possible.”
Alderman is confident that Cliff’s change of ownership will be smooth transition for customers.
“Jenkins and Fairbanks, who are actually brothers-in-law, are really good businesspeople who keep up with technology,” said Alderman. “I told them that all you need to do is be fair and honest and you won’t ever have to advertise because word of mouth in the community makes a big difference. When you live and work in a community, you sure want people to support you.”
Hundreds of members of the community took the opportunity to say goodbye to Alderman and thank him for his service at a retirement party held June 11 at the auto repair shop. In his new role as retiree, Alderman looks forward to playing golf, spending time with his family, and visiting the Outer Banks.
“I’ve played golf since I was a student at York High School,” said Alderman. “Some of my buddies, who I’ve known since playing Little League Baseball here as a kid, and I still get together to play golf. One of them approached me at my retirement party and asked if I wanted to join them at the last minute on a golf trip next week because someone had to back out and they had an available spot. They knew I’d be available. I was happy I could say ‘yes.’”
Hours of operation for Cliff’s Auto Repair are 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 757-898-5613.