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After the fire: Mechanic hopes to reopen Spring Township garage destroyed in blaze

Damage to Jim's Garage is severe January 23, 2015. Jim's Garage, owned by Jim Waite, and located along Valentine Hill Road, in Bellefonte, Pa., caught fire and burned January 20, 2015.
Damage to Jim's Garage is severe January 23, 2015. Jim's Garage, owned by Jim Waite, and located along Valentine Hill Road, in Bellefonte, Pa., caught fire and burned January 20, 2015. CDT photo

Jim Waite sighed when he looked at the charred remains of cars, warped steel beams and yellow caution tape wrapped around what used to be his business.

He could close up shop, but he would rather rebuild Jim’s Garage.

The auto repair business on Valentine Hill Road that he’s owned for 42 years was destroyed by fire Tuesday. The cause hasn’t been determined.

“I don’t want to retire, not at all,” Waite said. “I still want to work on cars and continue as long as I can. We’ve just got to get through the hurdles.”

Waite said it’s not in his control if he can rebuild.

“We have another insurance guy coming Tuesday,” he said. “The fire inspector just left. He’s going to call the adjuster for the building, and then we have one more guy coming to see what kind of tools I had and how many there were. He has to count those, and then they’ll make a determination if we can go ahead. I think we’re going to know something by Tuesday.”

Four cars were lost in fire, one a customer’s car. Another was his pride and joy 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS.

“It only had 29,000 miles on it,” Waite said. “I’ve had it for 22 or 23 years, but it’s no good now. I like classic cars. It’s not classic anymore, is it?”

He paused for a moment.

“I was going to work on it as soon as the weather broke,” he said. “All it needed was painted and clear-coated, and that was it. I took it off the road, and then it got busy, and I didn’t want to turn customer work down to work on my stuff. I should have, though, because now it’s gone.”

Old friends and customers have shown their support.

“There’s been a big reaction from the community,” he said. “People have been stopping in that I haven’t seen in years. I got people stopping in asking if they can do anything. One guy brought cookies, and I’ve got a lot of phone calls. There’s a lot of good people out there.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, he said, that he wants to continue the business.

“It’s my whole life,” Waite said. “Everybody who knows me knows that. They know I want to keep it. I’ve got a passion for it.”

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