By Joseph Babiasz
When Vinsetta Garage, a mainstay on Woodward Avenue in the town of Berkley, Michigan, closed its doors last November, many wondered if the art deco-designed building would survive the wrecking ball. Now, the place that is almost as old as the auto industry itself is about to get a new lease on life--one that will make it more of a destination spot for automotive enthusiasts and road-trippers than ever.
When Vinsetta's opened in the late 1800s, Berkley's Woodward Avenue was just a dirt road. Over the decades, Vinsetta's mechanics wrenched on everything from Model T's to late-model vehicles. It was probably the place to stop for gas and to arrange a drag race during the heady muscle-car days of the Sixties.
Little of Vinsetta's architecture changed over the years. Many of its vintage art deco neon signs remain. A single oil-can holder sits alone under the awning with a "no gas" sign telling customers to continue on. Countless enthusiasts from around the world have not only passed this historic spot while attending the Woodward Dream Cruise--but have photos of their prized vehicles parked in front of the building.
Owner Jack Marwil made the difficult decision to close the garage in November 2010 after his wife, Mary Kay Stark-Marwil, died of breast cancer at the age of 58.
Marwil had worked as a mechanic at Vinsetta's before purchasing the company in 1985 from the family of the original owner--a rather unusual situation considering Vinsetta's had been in business for almost 100 years. It was the oldest family-owned repair facility east of the Mississippi.
Now comes word that Keith Crain, publisher of Autoweek, has purchased the Vinsetta building. He and business partner Curt Catallo, owner of the famed Beach Boys "Little Deuce Coupe," intend to open a restaurant on the site in early 2012.
They plan to keep as many original features as possible, even the name. I can only imagine the line for tables during the next Dream Cruise.