Gary Jones has retired from American Dry Stripping.
On August 28, 2015, he turned 70… and retired.
Gary Jones: The Man, the Legend
Gary has been working since 1969, he said, when he left the Navy. Of course that was work too. He served on the aircraft carried the USS Kearsarge, making four trips to Vietnam from 1965 to 1969.
He and his brother and cousin, Walter and Russ Jones, started American Dry Stripping in Fairfield in 1982.
“We’ve always been in business together,” Gary says. “We owned a moving and storage business before that.
“My wife and I found this business when I was looking for a restaurant to buy. I bought this place instead. It was a just a hole in the wall in Fairfield and I built it up to what it is today. The job involved cars and I’ve always loved cars.”
How a Corvette Saved American Dry Stripping
And the foundation of American Dry Stripping has been cars. Every kind of car has rolled through their shop, from Model-T to Lamborghini.
“I stripped a car for Nancy Sinatra. I stripped a car that belonged to Steve McQueen in ‘Bullitt’. I’ve done George Barris’ cars. I have items on satellites and space shuttles.”
The car that probably meant the most to Gary, though, was his ’65 Corvette.
“I got hit many three times… by the bad economy. I owned a 65 Corvette all original. When the recession came, a guy came through the shop and said ‘if you ever want to sell that car, call me.’
“We had just taken possession of the new building in Bridgeport. The building was empty. I called the guy and he came down and he paid me well. I took the money down and deposited and I didn’t look back.
“That car helped me get to where I am today.”
His most memorable blasting job, however, was the American bobsled team’s sleds. He got to meet all of the team.
Gary moved the business out of Bridgeport when the town took the land by eminent domain. It was a stressful time but he said it worked out better than anyone could have hoped.
“They needed that new school drastically,” he said. “Milford is great town to have a business in. I couldn’t select a better place than where I am today. It’s quiet and safe and a great location.”
Friends, customers, loyalty
The story Gary tells about moving from Bridgeport to Milford highlights how he feels about the people he has meet along the way.
“I had people drop everything and come in one weekend and help me move the whole place. Employees, customers, friends. They did not charge me one penny. My men they came and they didn’t take an ounce of money.”
It’s the people that make a job worth doing everyday, Gary says.
“It’s been making people happy and giving good service. I had nothing but good people help me get this far. I have wonderful employees and I can’t say enough about these people, including Roger. I’ve taught him some things and he has taught me some things.”
Gary and Roger Van Brussel joined forces in 2012. Walt and Russ Jones wanted to retire so the business was sold to Roger. Gary stayed on board to head up operations and complete the transition.
“These last two and half years have been great. Roger has been very fair to me and I’ve been very fair to him. Roger and I were born in the same month and served in the Navy at the same time,” Gary says. “We followed a lot of the same paths.”
What’s his plan now? The road, of course.
“I bought a 32 foot RV and I am going to travel for a year and half, and go any place I want, stop any place I want and do anything I want. It will take me that long to do it. “
Gary plans to spend the first few months at NASCAR in Homestead, Florida to catch up with friends. Other stops on his wish list? Talladega, the Las Vegas Speedway, The Alamo, and Route 66.
“I want to be free. Like a bird! But I’ve I had a wonderful ride. After you live the big part of your life, if you can turn around and you are happy with what you see, well, I don’t see how it could get any better than that.”
We are sorry to see him go! Best of luck, Gary!
If you have any questions for Gary or Roger, let us know or comment below!