Warwick’s Conimicut Village has changed a great deal over the decades.
So has McCrudden’s Radiator & Auto Repair, which opened in 1959 at 835 West Shore Road. But for Kevin McCrudden, who has been a mechanic for 40 years and took over the business from his father, the focus remains the same – providing quality work that can make a positive difference in people’s lives.
“That makes me feel good, somebody who smiles and says ‘thank you,’” he said. “That’s what makes you feel good.”
McCrudden’s opened in 1959 when Kevin’s father, Jim, purchased the building that continues to house the business today. At first, it was operated as a gas station, but eventually repairs took precedence and the tanks were removed.
Kevin began working at the shop at 14 years of age, pumping gas and performing other tasks. In 1973, he took on a full-time role and apprenticed under his father.
As the shop’s website states, the years since have seen Kevin carry on Jim’s legacy – “giving good service at a fair price; always in an honorable manner and with integrity.”
In addition to radiators, McCrudden’s is a full-service mechanic shop. It fixes shocks, struts and brakes and offers oil changes, pre-inspection checks and tune-ups, among other services.
Vintage vehicles and specialty equipment have become a larger part of McCrudden’s business over the years, and the shop also does work on boats, including heating exchange replacements and exhaust manifolds.
Kevin said the changing nature of modern vehicles, and the proliferation of do-it-yourself tutorials through platforms like YouTube, have changed the expectations of some customers. Regardless, he said, he will not do work that isn’t necessary – and, conversely, he will put in the time needed to do a job correctly.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m shooting myself in the foot, but I’ve got to be honest,” he said.
The building that houses the business has evolved over the years. In the 1980s, an addition was added above the original garage, space Kevin says is used for storage and a small office. It was around the same time that the old gas tanks were removed.
“Everything has changed so much over the years … When I started, the building next door was a school,” he said.
Today, aside from various equipment and materials, the shop is filled with mementos from McCrudden’s six decades of service the community – and, in several corners, the wood and metal creations that Kevin has pursued in addition to his mechanic work over the years.
Outside is a chainsaw-carved wooden moose that may be familiar to passers-by, a creation originally intended for the old Bugaboo Creek restaurant. On a high-sitting shelf in the back of the garage is group of metal animals – a fish playing a guitar, a banjo-strumming turtle modeled after an image from a Grateful Dead album – that comprise a nearly full band. A
Kevin said he makes some of the pieces for his own enjoyment, while others, such as weather vanes, are custom-made for clients. As with the auto repair side of the business, he said, expectations from those customers are sometimes at odds with the reality of creative process – the amount of time and care that goes into making the pieces. Still, he takes pride in the work.
“I’ve got thick skin, you have to,” he said.
Looking ahead, Kevin, now 64, said he may rent out some of the shop’s bays and turn his focus more exclusively toward radiator repair. His wife recently retired, and while he has mentored young people in his business over the years, it has become more difficult to find interested people.
McCrudden’s, after all, is one of the last shops of its kind in the state. Still, Kevin believes there are opportunities for a future in the business.
“You’ve got to get some young kids that are responsible,” he said. “But they’re still out there.”
To learn more about McCrudden’s, call 738-2550 or visit mccruddensradiatorri.com.