He’s not anti-public transportation, per se. Haddad just did enough bus riding in his three years of traveling from home to National Technical Schools in the Los Angeles area, riding 3-4 buses – each way, twice a day – to earn his auto mechanic certifications.
“I’m done with the bus,” he says with a chuckle.
Fast forward nearly 40 years from those marathon bus commutes, and it was all worth it. Haddad’s Mill Valley Auto Repair has been one of the most trusted auto repair shops in southern Marin for decades, and his shop at 242 Shoreline Hwy. in Tam Junction is a non-stop hive of activity.
After those bus-dominated years in southern California, Haddad moved to the Bay Area in 1986 to run a gas station in San Ramon, then took over the 76 station on Tiburon Blvd. near the Cove shopping center. He sold that shop in 1998, as his Mill Valley Auto Repair at 356 Miller Ave., now home to Henrybuilt, was thriving since he opened it in 1994. Along the way, he launched Sausalito Auto Service off Bridgeway in 2003 before he sold it in 2010. When the owner of 356 Miller sold the building in 2014, Haddad moved Mill Valley Auto Repair to Tam Junction.
”I am most known for giving honest advice,” he says. “I say it just the way it is, even if I have to tell them that their car is not worth fixing, which is sometimes hard for a car owner to hear. But it’s the right thing, rather than spending thousands of dollars on a car that will be back in here soon after.”
Haddad, who grew up learning about cars from his car-loving father and uncle in Lebanon, also credits his team of mechanics, who he makes sure are regularly educating themselves on the ever-changing landscape of diagnostic-related software changes in modern cars.
But while technical expertise and honesty go a long way, Haddad also knows the power of having hundreds, if not thousands, of relationships with car owners for a completely different reason. When he first moved to Marin, the soccer-loving Haddad began playing in pickup games on the fields near Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon. One of the players asked him if he’d coach a youth team.
“This is years before I had my own kids,” he says.
Haddad agreed, and ended up coaching Tiburon youth soccer for 20 years, taking teams all over northern California.
“My greatest joy was to take a player who was undeveloped and turning them into someone who could really play – that was the real payoff,” he says.
While those longstanding relationships may keep Mill Valley Auto Repair busy, Haddad admits that the ever-present traffic jams through Tam Junction also helps his business get people’s attention.
“We have our phones ringing every day from new customers,” he says.