Arturo Auto Repair

Arturo Sanchez | Arturo Auto Repair
San Jose, California

When he was just seven years old, Arturo started working at a bakery in Mexico. By 13, he was managing it. During breaks, co-workers would tell him how, in America, you could make in a month what he was earning in a year. To a desperately poor boy, this far-away place sounded like a good opportunity. A year later, he jumped a cargo train to the United States to find work so he could support his family. There were eight of them, all living in a house that was nothing more than a roof and four walls. Arturo took any job he could find. Most of it was backbreaking work. All the while, he dreamed of becoming a mechanic. He was fascinated by engines and how they worked, and spent any free time learning about the inner workings of cars. After three years, he returned to Mexico and soon met Catalina, the woman who would become his wife. When work began on a road that would cut through mountains, Arturo was hired to be part of the road crew. It was a dream come true — he would finally get to work with heavy equipment and learn more about mechanics.

Arturo and his bride left Mexico in 1978 to begin a new life in the United States. It took a few years, but Arturo saved up enough to attend a vocational and technical school in Fremont. He was finally working on cars just as he had always dreamed. He was a star pupil when it came to the hands-on work. Tests were much harder. He left school after the sixth
grade and English was his second language, so he struggled with the academics. But Arturo studied hard and, in 1987, he graduated.

Arturo’s certificate still hangs on his wall. It remains one of his proudest achievements. He gets emotional when he talks about how far he’s come. He is grateful for all the hardships he’s endured because they helped him focus on what’s important and to become a mechanic, a job he loves. And they serve as a constant reminder to make the most of every opportunity.

After Arturo got out of school, he worked doing smog checks. During breaks, Arturo and one of his co-workers would talk, much like he did back at the bakery in Mexico. Instead of dreaming about riches in far-away places, they dreamed of opening an auto repair shop. But they were each supporting families on $16 an hour, so it seemed like they were
destined to spend the rest of their lives working for someone else.

That’s when Arturo saw opportunity in an abandoned building with a for “lease sign”. He contacted the landlord who agreed to rent it to Arturo. Together with his co-worker, Arturo started Stockton Auto Repair and ran it for 20 years. In 2008, Arturo’s grown children decided they wanted to join the family business, so Arturo sold his share of the business to his partner and used the proceeds to start a new, bigger shop down the road. Then, the financial
crisis hit. Arturo’s wife lost her job. Debt was piling up. A friend told Arturo about Opportunity Fund. No one else would loan him money, but Opportunity Fund loaned him $10,000. Later, he got another loan to purchase new equipment. Without Opportunity Fund’s help, Arturo doubts he would still be in business. During the recession, people didn’t have money to fix their cars and his business suffered. As dept piled up, Arturo’s credit score took a hit, but Opportunity Fund kept him afloat. He and his kids were able to run the business in its new location for 10 years until the property was sold to Google and torn down.

Arturo worried about what was next. Soon after, his former partner called to tell him he was retiring. He gave Arturo the keys to the shop they had started together 30 years before. Other than changing the name to Arturo Auto Repair, it’s like he never left. Arturo is well known in the neighborhood and his former customers welcomed him back.

Business is good. Arturo recently got another loan from Opportunity Fund, to make more equipment upgrades and to build an office inside the shop. His grandsons visit on weekends. They play in the new office and even ‘help’ with small chores. Arturo says his grandkids keep him focused on the now. As for the future, Arturo imagines he will keep on
working to support his family — and because he still loves working on cars.

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