East side auto shop symbolizes Lebanese immigrant’s dream career

East side auto shop symbolizes Lebanese immigrant’s dream career

Patience was a virtue for Sam Kalach.

He was an immigrant from Lebanon before becoming an American citizen, and he worked as a mechanic for 12 years before becoming a business owner.

Kalach has owned Riviera Auto Service, 9939 East Jefferson Ave., for the past seven years, where he oversees a full-time staff of four.

Sam Kalach, owner of Riviera Auto Service, immigrated from Lebanon and went to school to work as a mechanic.

“I used to work (at Riviera) a long time ago – working hard, being patient – then, after that I took over the business,” says Kalach. “I got an offer for the main building.

“I came from nothing, but I stayed patient.”

Kalach got his start working on Japanese cars while in auto mechanic school. He started to read about and study all brands of vehicles in his spare time.

“I liked cars since I was young,” Kalach says. “After school I wanted a career in being a mechanic. I could see myself being one.”

He didn’t always have support for his profession of choice, but relatives eventually warmed up to the idea.

“My family, at first, didn’t want me to be in this career, but then they saw I was having a good time being a mechanic,” he says.

Riviera offers full-service auto maintenance, including engine and exhaust services. The shop also sells Goodyear tires and has the ability to finance customers for the wheels.

Riviera’s business hours usually begin by 8:30 a.m. and end at 6 p.m.

On average days, 15 to 30 customers visit Riviera Auto Service, which is proud of its customer service history and loyal following.

On average days, 15 to 30 customers visit Riviera, but the busiest time of year is winter, Kalach says. During harsh Michigan weather cars tend to have more performance problems and more accidents on the road. Some customers use their tax refunds in the late winter months to make major repairs.

Riviera works on most brands of vehicle, but Kalach likes the Japanese models because of their quality. He says some Japanese brands have the same, original suspension system for nearly 20 years. European auto repairs are a bit more difficult than Japanese or American brands, but his team can handle the challenges, Kalach says.

Joe Campbell, a retired Chrysler employee, has been a Riviera customer for about seven years. The biggest job Campbell has needed was installation of an engine for his minivan, which only took a day.

Campbell says he likes Riviera’s work and is fond of Kalach, with whom he shares the same birthday.

“I like the service, but he and I get along and he’s just like my brother,” says Campbell. “He’s my brother from another mother.”

Editor’s Note: This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources for small business owners visit: https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/business-financing.go.

Lead photo: Mike Hamatto, mechanic at Riviera Auto Service works on a customer’s tire.

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