Block Island Auto
The mechanics' shop on Chapel Street has undergone a transformation over the past few weeks, with new siding, new doors, and an overall facelift of the property. Block Island Auto is now open and ready for business, with onsite mechanics Ahmet Ozen and Will Murray making repairs to the island’s automobiles.
The interior of the garage has been transformed as well, with new shelving, equipment, and tools. All told, the new owners have spent close to $100,000 on upgrading the space.
Owner Johnny Leone spoke to The Times about the new business venture, and his goal of providing a necessary and vital service for the island. The shop will be open six days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they strive to offer same-day service for most repairs.
One of the major services the shop will provide is state inspections. Block Island Auto is a certified inspection station, which is good news for islanders. Auto inspections are extremely difficult for islanders to obtain in the absence of a certified provider on the island, requiring the owner to travel with the car to the mainland in order to complete the state’s automobile inspection. Having the ability to get cars inspected on the island is a great boon to the town.
Block Island Auto is still dealing with a backlog of inspections for islanders, as there was a period of time when there was no inspection station on the island. The former proprietor of the shop on Chapel Street was cleared to offer inspections just in time for the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, which threw everything DMV-related into a tailspin.
As Block Island Auto works through the backlog, they are also working through the difficulties of the regulations governing the inspection process. The state requires the inspection to be filmed in its entirety, and pictures to be submitted of the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. Block Island Auto has set up one of its bays with cameras for this purpose.
The difficult part is that the shop only has two bays, one with a vehicle lift for working under the car, and the second one for inspections. So, the mechanics have to shuffle cars in and out of the inspection bay to accommodate customers who need an inspection. Though it’s a distraction from other repairs, the shop is working to balance the inspections with actual repairs.
The inspection itself is an hour-long process, which the state sets the price for at $55. The state recoups $35 from the inspection station, leaving the shop $20, which Leone says is less than the mechanic makes per hour. Block Island Auto charges a $25 shop fee to help balance things out for each inspection.
Leone hopes to work through the difficulties however, calling the inspection service “necessary.” He says he wants to be able to provide this vital service, but it is difficult to do profitably, and he hopes to explore possibilities with the town to make the system work in a “mutually beneficial way.”
“I want this to succeed,” Leone says. “We all need it to succeed.”
Block Island Auto is on Chapel Street. To reach them by phone call (401) 618- 4518.