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Longtime Cove mechanic looks back

Jeremy Thorp manually lowers the service bay garage door at the end of another day in Deep Cove. He’s got one last piece of business to attend to before calling it quits. For the Cove’s longtime community mechanic, this transaction is personal.

Jeremy Thorp manually lowers the service bay garage door at the end of another day in Deep Cove.

He’s got one last piece of business to attend to before calling it quits. For the Cove’s longtime community mechanic, this transaction is personal.

Thorp has found a suitable owner for his teenage daughter’s first car. The black Golf had been driven by Reilly for a couple of years, before she headed off to university in Calgary last fall.

Thorp imparts some advice to the young man, who himself is navigating early adulthood, and tells him to hold onto the Golf since it’s a good car.

Inside Thorp’s humble office, framed pictures of various community sports teams he sponsors hang on the weathered walls. He has treats in a jar for customers’ furry companions in this dog-friendly community.

Central Motor Service has been a fixture at the intersection of Deep Cove Road and Mount Seymour Parkway since the 1930s.

As a young apprentice, Thorp discovered the unassuming mechanic shop in 1988, not knowing that one day he would inherit an enduring piece of Deep Cove history.

In the early days, when Deep Cove was a summer cottage community, Central Motor Service was only a one-bay garage with gas pumps.  

“It definitely would have been a slower pace back then,” says Thorp, sitting behind the desk in the original office built almost 90 years ago.

Thorp tells the story of a recent afternoon when two generations of Covers collided. He and his mechanic trio had finished lunch together – the boss will often order the penne chicken from nearby Arms Reach Bistro – when an older gentleman showed up at the shop.

They learned the man was one of the first mechanics at Central Motor Service in the 1930s. He had a little place in the Cove and would unwind on the weekend at dances in Lynn Valley. He said they would fix one or two cars a week in those days.

On the day Thorp met him, the retired mechanic had brought his grandkids out to show them the special shop that still stands from a bygone era.

The island that once supported gas pumps still remains, many years after the pumps were removed.

Thorp once found a big box of handwritten receipts from the 1940s, when gas was two cents a gallon. That was four decades before Thorp arrived at Central Motor Service.

He enjoyed tinkering around with cars from a young age.

Growing up in Lions Bay, Thorp and his friends would cruise up the Sea to Sky Highway for some skiing in Whistler. The Hillside secondary grad went to BCIT after high school, with that innate interest in car mechanics in hand.

When it came time to do an apprenticeship, Thorp drove to Deep Cove to see Tony Yamashita, the third owner of Central Motor Service.

Yamashita took Thorp under his wing and, along with mechanic training, taught him a most valuable life lesson.

“(Tony) was as honest as the day is long,” recalls Thorp. “He always preached, you’ve got to be honest.”

When Yamashita retired he passed the torque wrench to Thorp about five years ago.

All told, Thorp has been fixing cars in the Cove for 30 years.

“We fix everything, all years, makes and models,” he says. “We get lots of cars from the ‘60s, we’ve had some cars from the ‘50s, and a Pantera (sports car). “There’s a guy in the neighbourhood who had a car from the ‘30s, a Daimler.”

Thorp’s personal preference is mid to late ‘60s General Motors cars, “just because they look good,” he says.

The ‘60s was when the second bay was put in at Central Motor Service. Underneath the shop, where there used to be an old hardware store, has since been repurposed with more service bays for a total of eight.

A wave of nostalgia washes over longtime Seymour resident and District of North Vancouver Coun. Lisa Muri when asked about Central Motor Service’s history.

Her grandfather built the business in the 1930s and the Muri family owned the buildings down to Deep Cove Music until 2009.

“He found Deep Cove reminded him of the fjords of Norway,” says Muri of her grandfather's interest in the Cove.

She remembers Cove residents knocking on the door of the family home, saying their hot water tank had burst, and her dad heading up to open the hardware store to get their part for them.

Thorp also answers the call on his days off, proving that fixing cars is a passion for him, and customers are more than just invoice numbers.

Ninety per cent of Thorp’s patrons live in the Seymour area and many remain loyal even after they move away.

“I’ve got a guy coming in from Ladner tomorrow who used to live in the Cove,” says Thorp.

After he closes up shop for the weekend, Thorp spends time with his wife and two children in Lynn Valley. They hike the Headwaters with the family dog, Jasper.

Though these days it’s just Jeremy and his wife Angela at home.

Twenty-year-old Dylan plays college baseball for Bellevue University in Nebraska – he was named pitcher of the week in the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association last spring – while his sister Reilly, 18, studies sciences in Calgary.

Thorp knows Central Motor Service may only have a few more years left in its original location.

“I always start to think about that and there’s so much going on that you don’t think about it,” says Thorp.

In December, Darwin Properties submitted a development application to North Vancouver District for the Central Motor Service site and other properties on that block of Deep Cove Road down to the Raven Pub.

The district has sent out a notice to residents within a 100-metre radius of the site asking for initial input on the preliminary application.

The deadline for submitting input on 1012-1110 Deep Cove Road is Jan. 31. If the application moves forward, a public info session is required at the next stage, the detailed application phase.

The proposal is to redevelop the properties and create a new restaurant (The Raven) and 27 total townhomes and rowhomes in two phases to a maximum height of three storeys.

Thorp says he’s working with Darwin Properties and is hoping they will find Central Motor Service a new home in the Dollarton area.

“Even if we do move to a newer, better building, I will still feel kind of sad. I’ve been here most of my life,” says Thorp.

In the meantime, Thorp concentrates on what he can control – helping keep customers safe on the road.

Thorp stands in Central Motor Service’s doorway, the threshold into manhood he crossed all those years ago. He hands the Golf keys to the young man and asks if he has any questions before sending him on his way.

The kid says no.

Thorp tell him the most important thing to do is keep up with the oil changes and to keep the tires inflated.

The kid nods. Thorp turns and walks back inside his office.

He genuinely cared about that car.

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