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51 years in the old Aerodrome Quonset hut

We’ve all been past Four Seasons Auto Collision on the northeast corner of Laird and Wicksteed, where it cozies up to the SmartCentre north site. Some of us have been clients over the years. We’re also heard lots of rumours about the place being sold.

So far, Four Seasons, with an interesting history, is still owned by the three Ricci brothers, who also have an interesting history.

The Quonset hut that you see from Wicksteed is a leftover from when the Leaside Aerodrome was in operation. After the airport closed various businesses made use of them.

Pat Ricci had a friend working at an auto body shop there, and he and his brother, Mike, decided this would be a good place for them to work too. They bought the tools from the previous owner and started their business on Dec. 1, 1964. That was 51 years ago. It took until 1984 for them to expand to their present size, and to be able to buy the whole property.

The Ricci family came from a small town south of Rome, Civitanova del Sannio. Their father arrived in Canada in 1952 and sent for his wife and three boys in 1953. As youngsters, they were some of the original squeegee kids, cleaning windshields, and keeping an eye out for good locations, like a beer store, or something like Eaton’s College Street around Christmas. But as Mike says, “That’s not too promising a career.”

So, the two older boys went more or less directly from high school at Central Tech to working with cars. Mario, the baby, went to Ryerson to study business and finance. It took him until 1970 to decide to join his brothers at Four Seasons. Along the way he picked up body repair skills too.

Pat correctly says, “Our place doesn’t look like the Taj Mahal, but we do good work.”  They are the longest operating auto body shop in Leaside.

Pat has tales to tell of the special cars he has worked on over the years, from restoring a big old Imperial for the father of Paul and Roger Martin, who own companies further south on Laird, to customizing a car for Bob Bannerman, the car dealer, to race at Mosport. He will also tackle non-automotive jobs, including fixing piano pedals or a sound board for Robert Lowrey, the piano specialist on Eglinton.

All three brothers have adult children who have worked summers at the business, but have no interest in being the next generation owners. So, at some point, the business will be sold. They have had various offers, but none are appealing enough so far. Mario says with a smile that they are each waiting for a “wheelbarrow of cash”.

In the meantime, the three brothers enjoy coming to work every day, even though they are all now past technical retirement age.

They still own property in their small town in Italy, so spending more time there is a possibility. Mike fondly remembers a seven-week family holiday there in 1997.

With the misunderstood traffic signals at their intersection, there is the potential for direct referrals every day. There are always horns blaring and the sounds of hasty braking, if not always the actual collisions.