Talking All Things Pine Plains With Dominick Calabro

From the Best Bench in TownIf Norman Rockwell were still with us today and he were in search of inspiration for his next great piece of Americana art, he might want to consider sitting on a bench with Dominick Calabro outside of Factory Lane Auto Repair in Pine Plains. From that bench, one can feel the pulse of Pine Plains: looking over the fence at Seymour Smith where the youngest Pine Plains residents play and learn, chatting with folks as they come to get their car serviced or just to say hi, smelling the coffee roasting next door at Winchell Mountain Coffee, and watching the cars drive by and just about every person waves and yells a “Hey, Dom!” out of their rolled-down window in greeting.

It doesn’t get more quintessential Small Town USA than this – and Dominick loves every bit of it.

Taking a chance

In 1987 Dominick and his wife Naomi came to Pine Plains to visit his parents and other family members. Driving around town, Dom noticed that the old railroad station building on Factory Lane had a “For Rent” sign. Dom immediately told his dad, “That’s my building!”

And the rest is history. Well, sort of.

At the time Dom and Naomi were living down towards Poughkeepsie, where Dom was working as a bus mechanic. But once he saw the building, which was an abandoned shell, he had a vision for what could be. And with blind ambition and a huge leap of faith, he put the work in to make his vision a reality. And from there Factory Lane Auto Repair was born.

“I had never lived in a small town before,” he explained, “so here was… different. It took a while to be accepted into the community, but once we were, we met many people and made a lot of friends. At the time, the area was very much an agricultural community with a lot of dairy farms and dairy farms that had been converted to horse farms. It was interesting to notice the distinct different cultures of the dairy and horse farmers,” Dom shared with a chuckle.

“There hasn’t been a lot of development in regards to stores and businesses in the time that I’ve been here. And that’s fine!” Dominick explained. “I enjoy it. I feel now, and have for some time, that this is my home town.”

The people have heart

The entire conversation we had on that bench could be wrapped up around the people of Pine Plains. On more than one occasion, Dominick spoke of the connections and the heart of this community, all of which makes your own heart swell with pride for this amazing town.

“This is where my home is, but my business has become the hub of family and friends for me,” he explained. “My sons would walk or skateboard to the shop after school, then they’d do homework right there in the back office. My kids’ entire lives have been here at the shop.” Every family member, friend, or Factory Lane Auto customer should know that Chris and Pete (Dom and Naomi’s sons) both work at the shop, making it a true family-owned and operated business.

Changing times

We couldn’t talk about the past 30-plus years of Pine Plains without talking about the changes that have happened. To that, Dom shared, “Despite various changes throughout the years, this is still a small town. Sure, there are fewer dairy farms, perhaps more horse farms, an influx of people in the aftermaths of 9/11 and COVID, and people move or pass away, but despite all of that, Pine Plains remains a small town.”

He continued, “For me, the quality of life here is what matters. I find comfort in being where I want to be, and I enjoy the peace and quiet.”

One big change that Dominick points out was Stewart’s opening a location in town. “We must also talk about what I like to refer as ‘life before’ and ‘life after’ Stewart’s,” he said with that signature Dominick grin. And just as we began to discuss the early 1990s proposal to build a Stewart’s and how there were varying opinions on the matter amongst the townspeople, Dutchess County Legislator for District 19 Gregg Pulver pulled up in his pick-up truck. “Hey, Dom! Can you help me with this…” as he proceeded to open his tailgate. See? Quintessential small town!

But whatever had been in the back of his truck was quickly forgotten as Dom told him of our discussion about Stewart’s, and Gregg shared his own opinions on the matter as another local pulled up asking if he could get some air in his tire for his motorcycle since the air at Stewart’s wasn’t working that day. To which, Dom smiled and said, “Sure thing. We can help you out.”

A small business in a small town

I was curious to learn Dom’s thoughts about running a small business in such a small town. In typical Dominick fashion he smiled and shared a few stories about customers and impactful people in the community – too many to mention here.

“My business has had a slow, steady growth. We’ve seen many similar businesses come and go in the 30-plus years that we’ve been in business. And sure, we’re affected by things like the economy just like everyone else, but those effects are more often than not short-term.” He then continued, “Our customers are our customers. If the economy is bad, our business actually thrives because in those instances people want to fix their older cars. This isn’t an easy business to be in though. It is always changing, like recently with the change to electric cars. I’m sure that some day we’ll be fixing flying saucers.” •

To learn more about Dominick Calabro and Factory Lane Auto Repair you can call (518) 398-5360 or visit them at 3 Factory Ln, Pine Plains, NY.