South Florida can be a brutal place. Con men flock here like gulls on a bread crumb, and the smell of criminality is never far away. Desire for the Big American Dream -- not the one featuring a chicken in every pot but the one with two Mercedeses and a Porsche in every three-car garage -- drums the decency out of people here at a dizzying pace. So if this place is more dishonest than, say, Boise, what must the mechanics be like? Well, surprisingly, they aren't any worse than anywhere else, for the most part. Probably more likely to get ripped off in a place like, say, Beaufort, South Carolina, to pick an Old South town at random. And some South Florida garages, like Wales, are absolute gems. The garage has a motto: "For People Who Plan to Keep Their Cars." You gotta like that. Might as well say, "For Working Joes." Or "For People with Enough Sense Not to Throw Their Money Away on a Lease." The service at Wales is topnotch, and the turnover is quick. These people receive broken cars, fix them, and get them out the door in record time. And it's got longevity on its side. The garage was started by George Wales four decades ago. He sold the place in the early 1970s and went on to became better-known for his nearby restaurant, the beloved Café de Geneve, which closed in 2001. Today, the garage is owned by Stewart Levy, who has managed to preserve Wales' standard of excellence. It's a beautiful thing -- if you plan to keep your car.
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