For six decades, drivers with dings and dents on their Beemers and Benzes gravitated to Giant Motors Auto Paint & Body in Miami Beach.
In recent years, the body shop’s neighborhood, the Sunset Harbour area on the east end of the Venetian Causeway, has changed face from industrial to upscale. An unidentified development group had been after Richard May for more than a year to sell, but he kept resisting.
Recently, though, May began having second thoughts, his wife Marcelle said. “While we’re driving they call Richard and said, ‘If you’re really not going to sell we need to put this to bed and move on.’ I could see his pensiveness. There was silence in the car.”
And then the Mays spent a pivotal weekend in Palm Beach. During a stroll along Worth Avenue
before checking in to their hotel, she suggested they check out a “tchotchke shop.”
“I love all the clocks that have sayings on them,” she said. She spotted a clock with the phrase, “When Richard is happy, there is peace in the kingdom,” displayed on its front, five-inch tile.
“I said, ‘Richard. This is a sign that we need to do this, and we moved forward.’ ”
The Mays bought the omen clock for $36 and entered the world of the retired.
On Nov. 1 Giant Motors plans a closing celebration party for employees, neighbors, customers and family to gather and say goodbye at the shop, 1750 Bay Rd. Painter Jorge Rodriguez will create a mural listing employees’ dates of employment.
The feeling is bittersweet.
“I’m very happy for my next part of my life,” May, 58, said Monday. “My father bought this business in the mid-1950s, and it has been part of our life for close to 60 years. I grew up on Miami Beach. It’s weird retiring.”
The Mays, married 31 years with two grown daughters, said the deaths of two brothers-in-law at ages 50 and 51, of a heart attack and brain cancer, contributed to their decision.
So, too, did the changing neighborhood. Once a waterside warehouse district featuring the Bee Gees’ private recording studio, Middle Ear, along with body shops, tow companies, a Sun Post office and small apartment units, Sunset Harbour now boasts a stylish Publix, the marina, condo towers, restaurants, yoga and cycling studios and a 460-car parking garage.
Giant Motors, which Rodriguez said averaged 10 to 15 cars a week, suddenly didn’t seem so giant. The shop employs two painters, one detailer, two body men and a manager.
“The neighborhood is changing, and they are promoting new development with no parking requirement on site, which also was a good reason why now is the time,” May said. Management is in discussion to open a new Giant Motors in downtown Miami, but there’s no deal yet and the family won’t be involved.
Rodriguez, 49, who has buffed and painted BMWs, Mercedes and other cars for 24 years here, says he is optimistic.
“Whatever comes next, I’m open. Fortunately, I’m a good technician and can work anywhere,” he said. “We’ll try to keep the team together.”
As for May, a member at La Gorce Country Club, look for him on the links.
“I love golf,” he said. “I want to volunteer to help kids get into golf and get them off the streets. Whatever I can do, I want to get involved in. Miami Beach is a great place. I enjoyed being in this place all these years.”
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