An inside account: Chris Privia
By David Blanchette
Whether repairing vehicles or fighting fires, Chris Privia has been someone the people of the Concord-Arenzville area have come to rely on.
“This is my calling, being close and being able to do the things I do in the community,” Privia said.
Privia took over Bill’s Service in Concord, the auto repair business his father started, and anyone who drives through has seen the shop at the town’s only four-way stop. Privia is also the chief of the all-volunteer Arenzville Fire and Rescue, something else he picked up from his dad, a long-time volunteer firefighter.
Privia’s community service extends to Triopia High School, area Little Leagues and the West Central Joint ETSB Board.
Privia is an Arenzville native who attended Trinity Arenzville grade school and Triopia High School. His father started Bill’s Service in 1980 and as a youth Privia decided to pursue an automotive repair career himself.
Privia attended the Nashville Auto Diesel College (Now Lincoln Tech) in Nashville, Tennessee, for a year and then worked at Dresing Chevrolet in Jacksonville, where he received more training. Privia then returned to Bill’s Service in Concord and has been there ever since. He took over the business in 2017.
“Our typical day in the shop is busy. Everybody says that’s a good thing, but a little breathing room once in a while would be nice,” Privia said. “We do all kinds of work. We work on vehicles for several people in town, lawn mowers, weed eaters, chain saws, cars, trucks and tractors.”
“Two years ago we bought the old Nickel Agriculture buildings across the street where we have a motor home, a farm truck and a tractor torn down in there right now,” Privia said. “We do most of the big work, tractors and semis and stuff, over there.”
A major portion of Privia’s business involves warranty work for Bluebird and Thomas School Bus Companies, which bring buses to the shop from places all over the region including Astoria, Franklin, Waverly, Virginia and Ashland.
Anything that runs with an engine will always need repair or maintenance, but Privia said the way in which that work is performed has changed dramatically over the years.
“It used to involve a lot of hand tools, but any more the most used piece of equipment is probably my laptop computer,” Privia said. “I’m not sure what it’s going to look like in the next few years for independent shops because of the amount of equipment it takes to keep going.”
“We still get our hands dirty, but for instance, we don’t rebuild engines like we did back then,” Privia said. “Things have definitely changed, you don’t fix and rebuild as many things as you replace things these days in this throw-away world.”
Privia admitted that it’s hard for him to say “no” to customers and “you get into some things sometimes that you kind of wish you hadn’t gotten yourself into.” He occasionally works on show cars for customers and that “makes you kind of nervous sometimes.”
Privia’s most unusual job involved the tow truck that Bill’s Service once operated. A call was received to tow a house out of a ditch: “They were moving a mobile home over by Exeter and coming down the hill the tongue broke and the guy literally put his house in the ditch. So, I winched his house back onto the road and we towed it on to Naples for him.”
Those in Concord and Arenzville who don’t know Privia from his auto repair business probably have encountered him as the chief for Arenzville Fire and Rescue. Privia said his most memorable call as a fireman came early in his career.
“My first structure fire was my own house that burned down in 2000. That made a big impact on my decision to stick with it,” he said. “Anybody that has ever gone through it, it’s not something you’d wish on your worst enemy.”
Privia adds, “Obviously in a small community, every time there’s a call it’s probably somebody you know. That’s one of the most rewarding aspects to the job but also one of the hardest. It makes it a lot tougher sometimes because it’s probably somebody you know and it’s a good chance it’s somebody you’re close with.”
Privia’s work with Arenzville Fire and Rescue led to his current service on the board of the West Central Joint ETSB, the organization that oversees the area 911 system. Privia is the representative from the western portion of Morgan County.
If you attend Triopia High School football or basketball games you’ll likely see Privia there as well, running the scoreboard clock like his father and great uncle did before him. The Privia family has performed that same vital service since the day Triopia was founded. Privia has also served as president of the area Little League and although he’s stepped back from many of the local duties with that organization, he’s still part of the Little League district staff and helps out at tournament time.
Privia has five children and several grandchildren, all of whom live in the region, and his son Matthew is following in his footsteps — Matthew works periodically at Bill’s Service and is also a Beardstown fireman and paramedic.
Chris Privia looked back on his lifetime of service to his hometown area and had no regrets. He wouldn’t change a thing if he had to do it all over again.
“A family business and volunteer service in a close community,” Privia said. “It all works out well.”