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Zoom in to South Central Los Angeles


Joel Felix has owned B&B Auto Shop for more than 20 years in the same location. Located between 29th street and Central Ave., Felix explains why he feels he's been blessed to open up an auto shop business that is filled with L.A.'s history.

A State-wide Pattern | Vintage license plates from all around America line up along the walls of B&B Auto Parts Shop.

Rows of Auto | Adjacent to the front desk is a wall filled with oils that are used to clean car parts. Click Here for a Photo Essay

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Road to Auto | This embed map is a "custom size" to match 455 width and image's height. Caption is available under each of these elements.

Conversations with an Auto Technician
Get a feel for how Joel Felix runs his business, B&B Auto located in South Central Los Angeles. Click Here

Take a peek | LEFT: A behind-the-cover look into B&B Auto Shop. Click Here


By Irene Byon

Q: What is your day like?

A: Monday through Friday I wake up at 3 a.m. I’ve been doing this for 20 years.
It’s real simple, it’s the same thing as waking up at 6 o’clock, you just have to get used to it.
There are people  who say it’s hard for them to wake up at 8 o’clock. Isn’t it?

Even on my days off on Saturday and Sunday, my eyeballs just open.

I look at my clock and my watch and it’s 3 a.m.

Q: How difficult is it waking up so early and having to get your self up to a full day’s worth of work?

A: Not really because I enjoy it. I have a lot of thrive so I enjoy it.

Q: Where does that thrive come from?

A: What motivates me is that I’m out there serving the people. I’m picking them up and taking them to work. I like being a service. When I’m there, I give a 110%. The customers get for what they pay for. When I was a kid, I was working for General Motors. I was 18-years-old. I was a baby of the plant. But they saw my workmanship and I’ll tell them to give me two shifts, more shifts. So with whatever I do I give it a 110% or more. That’s the way I was brought up, that’s me.

When you have ambition, we have to work. You just can’t stay home; so you might as well just make the best of it. That’s how I feel about it.

Q: Do you have another job?

A: Before I got into Metro, I used to have a catering truck. I used to sell Mexican food in the Boyle Heights area. After a while, I got tired that and I took a year or two off.  I was traveling and going to different places, and I bored at home. Friend told me Metro is hiring. So I agreed to apply and got it.

Q: How did you come to own B&B Auto?

A: I got an opportunity to open up a business and that’s how I ended up here. I had the time to do both because the Metro were early day hours, and I just had to do something.

Some friend of mine owned B&B Auto Parts at the beginning— him and another owner. And when they knew I had a lot of time off, they called me and asked if I wanted to work for them. I said sure! I was running the store and little by little I started investing money into B&B Auto Parts.  And you know how businesses are, owners start bringing in families into matter, and things weren’t working out right. So this is what I did.  I said I’ll buy them out. I told them I would buy the building. I had like $70,000 in cash.  I told them, look if you didn’t want to buy me out, I’ll buy you guys out. So I got what I wanted because I put work into the business.

Little by little, I had a lot of business back in the 90’s. I would sell $18,000-19,000 a day. The store was all complete. But once 911 came, everything just started falling— one thing after another. Business just stared collapsing little by little.

Q: How has Sept. 11 affected your business in this town?

A: It’s kind of slow right now. It’s never going to be the same. That’s why I downgraded the building and I made my income with other retail sections I made. But I’m not doing badly at all.

Q: Do you have any other ambitions?

A: Right now, my goal is to sell B&B Auto Part and get into the tequila business. I want my own private name. I already have the name. I have it registered in Mexico. I know I’m going to do real good. I’m going to make a lot of money. I have faith in it.

Q: You’re always on a move!

A: I can’t stay still. I have to make more money. I’m not happy with the money I make. I have to make more. That’s me. Even though I make good money right now, I know how to spend it, I know how to make it, but I know how to save. I want something bigger and better. I’ve been here for a while now and I know I deserve bigger and better.

Q: What can you tell me about your neighborhood?

A: Back in the days, I saw a lot of drugs, gang violence. During the daylight around this time, you see gang bangers shooting at each other out on the streets on Central Ave. here. They were like playing cowboys and aliens. You’d see prostitutes running around and pimps following them. It was like a devil’s trade. This area was like the area where the devil had everybody. That’s what I would call it.

It started changing around 1999. The police were enforcing the area more. Police officers started walking the streets so I think that calmed down the neighborhood a lot. People got scared of getting caught. They opened up that police station. And we had more people coming in to open up more businesses and the city’s Central Development is putting in a lot of money to Central Ave. They’re planning to put up a Wholes Food up in central and they’re putting up more businesses on Adam and 29th. So it’s getting better and better.

Q: Do you see improvement?

A: There are a lot of projects here because Metro is starting a line that will go through Central. It’s going to cross USC and continue west.

This is what I say, if the guy from Petron can do it, then why can’t I do it?

Q: Were you worried about the location of your business at all?

A: I wasn’t thinking of the location. I just thought of the business. Because business wise, whether you had prostitution or drugs, the business was still surviving and getting better and better. So that didn’t bother me at all. I just came and minded my own business and did what I could for my customers.

Q: Do you have employees other than yourself?

A: I hire people, but now-a-days, I back out of hiring people. I found a lot of my employees didn’t respect my workmanship, my ethics, and loyalty. For right now, it’s better this way— just me, my son and another employee that I know real good. I have so much experience of hiring people out on the street, it just doesn’t work out. They say, don’t watch over the shoplifters, watch over your employees, which is true. I’ve had many experiences of that. And I’m a nice guy so I give them another chance but it doesn’t work out sometimes. I got tired of it. When it comes to my employees, I like to give my heart out to them as a friend. But I guess they haven’t appreciated that.

Felix helps a customer choose which auto part he needs for his Cadillac. Felix said interacting with customers is the best part of his job.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I was born in Mexico, but I was brought to this country when I was six months old. And I grew up in Boyle Heights. It’s a borderline in East L.A. I went to elementary there. I went to Wilson High School.

Q: Have you always worked since high school?

A: I always had a part-time job during high school. Once I graduated, I went to work for general motors. I was 19 years old, left home and got an apartment for myself.

All my life I’ve been independent since I was 16 years old. Even though my father had a business and was capable of affording to support me, I always tried to do things on my own. I just never was the type of person to ask my father for something.

Q: Did things ever get more difficult?

A: Take time and you get used to being on your own. You’ll of course think about your family but you’re going to be more involved in your rhythm of life.

Q: What about now? How did you start your family?

A: I met my wife on the bus! I did. She a real good person. I’ve been married to her for 20 years now. We have two boys. Joe and Kato. That’s my family. My wife has always been a house wife. She gave my kids all the attention he needs.

I saw her at the bus stop and I was like ‘woah’  love at first sight. I just started talking to her, took her out on dates, and fell in love ever since. I was lucky. We got married like two years later. I have nothing bad to say about her. She’s a really good lady. Only death will take me apart. I know how marriages are. There are ups and downs but you have to learn how to cope with it.