Any longtime customer of Drago’s Spring and Welding who steps foot in the shop today may think it is still the 1980s.
Eight months after passing the torch to new owners Rob Guido and Maciej Kucko, the River Street shop is busy every day, Guido told KTW, just as it was 30 years ago for the business’s namesake, Drago Gluvic.
Production at the shop had slowed down in Gluvic’s old age and seeing the business reinvigorated a few weeks ago during his latest visit brought much joy to Gluvic, Guido said.
“His wife actually said, as they were walking up the driveway, they have not seen him move this quickly in five months,” Guido said. “He saw all the vehicles, the bay doors were open and the shop was full of vehicles, so he was just blown away. His son still texts me and says I can’t believe how happy my dad was to come back and see the shop moving like that.”
Guido said Gluvic told them that day he’s proud of them and “glad he sold us his baby.”
During that visit, Gluvic went right over to his old machines to make sure they hadn’t been sold and were still in working order, Guido said with a laugh.
While the octogenarian doesn’t stop in as often as he used to when he first sold the business — having moved to White Rock to be closer to his children — when he does pop in, he lights up, Guido said.
For Guido and Kucko, business has been great.
“It’s been absolute insanity. We have not had a break,” Guido said.
Having kept the name to honour the longtime owner, Guido said he and Kucko expanded the business to include mechanical work, brought back welding and rearranged and cleaned up the shop a bit.
“It’s just been a really good first year,” Guido said, adding he feels fortunate and business has been much better than he expected.
Having for years talked about opening a company together, Guido, a mechanic, and Kucko, a metal fabricator, bought Drago’s earlier this year, acquiring something of a local household name in the process.
At its peak, Drago’s had eight employees and the shop was constantly filled with vehicles. But, as he got older, Gluvic scaled back, maintaining just a single employee and focusing on springs when he sold the business earlier this year, Guido told KTW.
Guido said he and Kucko have spent the better part of the year building Drago’s back up to its former glory. He said they started knocking on doors and assuring customers of their service and workmanship quality.
“People gave us a chance,” Guido said.
The shop currently sports a team of five, working on about 15 different jobs a day, on average, whereas Drago could only handle about three or four vehicles a week before he sold, Guido said.
The two new owners were longtime customers of Drago’s and, prior to owning his shop, would sometimes stop in just to chat.
“Drago had it running to this capacity in the ‘80s. He just couldn’t keep up to the demand by the end,” Guido said.
Gluvic bought his shop in the early 1960s, stocking it with all kinds of homemade machinery.
He was born in Banja Luka, in the former Yugoslavia, in 1937. He immigrated to Canada in the 1950s and worked on a farm in Williams Lake, then at Harper Ranch, before getting a job at the shop he would soon own.
Gluvic told KTW his business came with long hours — something Guido and Kucko know firsthand, having spent some nights at the shop until 10 p.m.