By Cathy B. Koplen
The Daily Star
---- — Matt’s Auto maintains a steady business in Otego.
Located on Ostdawa Avenue, the repair shop has been in business at its current location for 12 years. The solid, cinder-block building, with four bays, a waiting room and office, hosts a steady stream of customers and their automobiles.
“I have been bringing my car here for the past five or six years,” said Daisy Soto of Laurens. “They are honest. I can see what is being done to my car. They will call you over to show you what they are doing.
“It is a nice, small business, and they are very friendly,” Soto said.
Matthew Mannina, owner of Matt’s Auto, has been tinkering with “things that go” ever since he was a young boy growing up in Otego.
“My first bicycle ... I built it out of parts from the junkyard,” Mannina said. “It was fun then, and it is fun now.
“I like working with my hands, I like the challenge. It keeps me interested.”
The auto repair business has changed through the years, Mannina said, and it takes commitment to keep up with the new technology. Mannina figured he goes to as many as eight seminars a year. In addition, he reads manuals and takes online classes to keep up with the changing industry.
“You might go to one on anti-lock brakes one time, and the next, it might be computerized engines or hybrids,” Mannina said.
Mannina grew up in Otego. He went through the Unatego schools and worked for an auto mechanic in Oneonta before renting a space to work on cars in Otego. When he decided to open his own shop, he bought the land and then built the garage with the help of family and friends.
“It is a real tight-knit community,” Mannina said of his hometown. “You know, neighbors helping neighbors out. You can really tell that with the flood that came through here.”
As a member of Otego’s volunteer fire department since 1997, Mannina has had the opportunity to help his neighbors often. He noted that most calls involve someone he or another firefighter knows personally.
“Matt’s Auto” is also a legend found on the jerseys of young T-ball players. Mannina has sponsored youth sports for years, ever since his children played ball. Today, Mannina has one child in college and another who is a senior at Unatego High School.
Jody Ellis has been working for Mannina almost seven years.
“Matt’s the best boss I have ever had,” Ellis said. “I have been turning wrenches for 15 years. We work together well. We just see what needs to be done and we get it done.”
Many businesses have felt the pinch of the economic downturn, but Matt’s Auto has thrived.
“I think the downturn has helped our business,” Mannina said. “Some people, when they would trade in a car every two years are keeping them longer. They have to make repairs and make sure to keep it maintained so it will last.”
Mannina said he enjoys living in Otego and has never wanted to go anywhere else — except on vacation.