The sun shines bright on a worn, peeling sign standing over a shop on River Street.
Faded letters read “Drago’s Spring and Welding” — a familiar moniker to many in Kamloops.
Amid the clanging of metal, it’s a relatively quiet Friday at the shop following a busy week, but a distinct shuffling sound can be heard in the distance.
It’s the sound of dusty concrete grinding against shoes — those of 81-year-old Drago Gluvic, who has run the business for more than 50 years.
Sporting a ball cap, two hearing aides, large glasses and a collared shirt buttoned all the way up, Gluvic slowly makes his way to his now former office ready to talk about past, present and future with KTW.
But work is always on the old blacksmith’s mind, even on the doorstep of retirement.
He takes frequent pauses from questions to talk business with new owners Rob Guido and Maciej Kucko, and when a large BC Hydro truck rolls in for repairs, Gluvic is drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
It’s clear: Gluvic loves his work and is quick-witted.
Asked why he’s retiring, he replies with a smile, “I didn’t know nothing better.”
As the business was becoming too much to handle in his old age, Gluvic sold his shop to two lifelong friends in their 30s, who were also former customers.
“When I was 16 … I used to come here and Drago used to sell me U-bolts. He would tell me one price before I got here and then I’d pick them up and they’d double by the time I got here,” Guido quips.
Having talked about opening up a business together for years and feeling the time was right, Guido, a mechanic, and Kucko, a metal fabricator, were interested in purchasing Drago’s.
“I used to love coming in here and seeing him in the shop, it’s a great shop,” Kucko says.
The process started in September as mere chats, and the three became close friends through months of discussions.
Kucko and Guido would stop in some days just to visit.
“We’d come here and just bullshit with him for hours,” Guido says.
Filled with massive homemade machinery, the shop is quite literally the house that Drago built.
He bought the place in the early 1960s and extended the building in the 1990s.
“You believe me, I never borrowed penny from bank — nobody,” Gluvic says, noting it was easier to save money back in the day.
His pride and joy is a U-bolt press he built, but it’s just one of many pieces of homemade machinery in the shop.
“I built that about 40 years ago,” Gluvic says.
Asked how he built them, Gluvic didn’t speak, but instead smirked and simply tapped his finger to the side of his head.
Gluvic was born in Banja Luka in the former Yugoslavia in 1937. He immigrated to Canada in the ‘50s and worked on a farm in Williams Lake and then at Harper Ranch before getting a job at the shop he would soon own.
Reminiscing about the old days, Gluvic said business was lucrative, even when he was working on his own — but it came with long hours.
The business was often a family affair, however, as his wife Agnes and daughter Debbie helped with the books.
At its peak, Drago’s had up to eight employees and the shop was constantly filled with vehicles.
One of Gluvic’s fondest memories, however, has nothing to do with business — it was teaching his son Brian his craft in the shop.
Now, Gluvic and his wife have plans to move to White Rock to be closer to their son and daughter — a doctor and teacher — and with multiple rental properties and four grandchildren, he’ll likely be a busy man in his golden years.
The octogenarian also plans to be a mentor to the shop’s two new owners and will likely still pop in from time to time.
“You’re still the boss in our eyes, right?” Guido asked Gluvic.
“Oh yeah,” he replies.
Guido said Gluvic had many offers for the shop, but most included plans to sell off the equipment and change the name.
Gluvic wanted buyers who would maintain the shop’s history, and Kucko and Guido were happy to oblige. The name will remain Drago’s and the machinery will be used, as well.
“This is a one of a kind shop,” Guido says, noting Gluvic’s customer rapport he has built over the years.
“He’s still the face and the brand of it all.”