Opposite the Wilmette Metra Station
Our story from the Wilmette Beacon 1/12/12
Twenty years ago, an area doctor was driving down Green Bay Road in Wilmette when his car filled with the strong stench of something burning.
Assuming the engine or some related part was on fire, he pulled into Wilmette Auto Care, which he just happened to be passing.
Owner Baykar Tatosian put the car on the rack and immediately located the problem: a plastic bag had wrapped around the muffler and melted. In five minutes, start to finish, the doctor was out the door, at no charge. He's been a loyal customer ever since.
The story illustrates a big reason why Tatosian and Wilmette Auto Care have earned the kind of trust that has kept them in business for 25 years in Wilmette.
In an industry that has a reputation for "aggressive" practices; Tatosian has a simple rule of thumb:
"I wouldn't do anything to a person that I wouldn't want done to myself," he said. "We don't invent problems here. We look at the car like it belongs to a mother or sister or friend. We find out what the problem is, and then we talk with the customer and determine the best way to solve it."
Tatosian, 67, was born in Istanbul. He moved to this country to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering.
For the next 20 years, he worked as an engineer at Sargent & Lundy, building nuclear power plants.
Along the way, he met Charlene Marsh, a Wilmette native and 1964 New Trier graduate. They have now been married for 41 years, and have two grown children: Justin (New Trier '94) and David (New Trier '97).
Tatosian always loved to tinker with cars, and in the late '70s and early '80s toyed with the idea of opening a repair shop.
He bought a set of Craftsman tools
from Sears, studied factory manuals, and practiced getting better on his Datsuns.
"There was always a car torn apart in my garage," Tatosian said. "If I were born here I probably would have been a high school dropout, worked at a gas station, had a horrible attitude and become a great mechanic."
In 1987 he summoned the courage to quit his engineering job and follow his passion. He converted the property at 803 Green Bay from a gas station into a repair shop and spent three months "going through a lot of people before finding one who fit into the place."
That one person turned out to mechanic Norik Yasiel, who has been there ever since. A third mechanic, Peto Cardenas, has been with Tatosian for nearly four years.
The cars Wilmette Auto Care services can roughly be divided into thirds, between American, Japanese and European. Today's cars are more reliable and better built than their predecessors, he said, but they are also more complicated to fix because they rely so heavily on electronic components.
Tatosian calls Japanese cars the "most reliable," but he's always had a soft spot for Saab, one of the first car makers to offer front wheel drive. To an avid snow skier like Tatosian, that mattered because front wheel cars handle the snow better than rear wheel drive.
Tatosian also loves to bike and play soccer, and is an avid sailor. He and Charlene own a 38 foot-Beneteau they dock in Montrose Harbor.
But as entertaining as those sports are, Tatosian said his first love it still fixing cars.
"This is a job by choice, not necessity," he said. "I could have remained an engineer, or worked in the family's Oriental rug business. It may sound corny, but I love what I do. When the car is finished, and I drive it around, and I feel the difference, it puts a smile on my face. It really does."
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