If you’re running on empty on Purchase Street, put the pedal to the metal right to Rye Brook Service Center, where a mild mannered young man will fill up the tank and squeegee your windshield.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
If you’re running on empty on Purchase Street, put the pedal to the metal right to Rye Brook Service Center, where a mild mannered young man will fill up the tank and squeegee your windshield. Esteban “Steve” Soto has been working as a gas attendant all spring, while fulfilling an internship requirement.
The 24-year-old Rye native knows Rye like the back of his hand and is working hard to master as much about cars. Apprenticing for owner Joe Lamberti at the Rye Brook Service Center/Gulf Station has most likely accelerated his under-the-hood learning curve.
“There’s nothing Joe and his head mechanic, Tony Scarfone, who has known me since I was a boy, can’t figure out about both new and classic cars,” said Soto. “Joe’s also a really nice guy, who cares about the happiness of both his clients and his employees.”
This is actually Soto’s second stint at the repair and body shop at 999/1019 Boston Post Road. He worked there a few years ago while attending Manhattan College in order to pay for his books.
A third generation Rye resident, Soto related that his grandparents emigrated in the early 1960s from Colombia, and settled in an apartment on Purchase Street. After it burnt down, they moved to Orchard Street, where they raised Soto’s mom, Claudia, and where she, in turn, raised him. He went to Osborn Elementary School and was a member of Rye High School’s class of 2009.
“Having been brought up by my mom and grandma gave me a better perspective and made me a more caring person,” he noted. “I really liked growing up in Rye with its very good schools and kind people.”
While enrolled at Rye Middle School, he started dating the love of his life, Lia Meyerdierqs. Remaining in close proximity to both their families, they live on Maple Avenue with their 3-year-old son Gabriel. He hopes they can afford to stay in Rye, so Gabriel can attend the city’s schools and have as nurturing an upbringing here as they did.
Soto met with a bleak job market upon graduating from Manhattan, where he double majored in Religion and Philosophy, so he decided to shift gears. “Lia, who grooms dogs at Le Beastro, found a trade she loves and inspired me to do the same,” he recalled. “I had tinkered around with friends’ cars and always enjoyed it, so I decided to try something different.”
He enrolled at Lincoln Tech in Whitestone to earn his automotive technician training certification, which requires the job internship. Although the aspiring mechanic is coming to the end of the school year, he anticipates staying on at the gas station through the summer. His plan is to start paying off his student loans and continue learning all he can.
Right now, in addition to pumping gas, he does oil changes, mounts and dismounts tires, plugs tires, and writes up orders. Having taken a vehicle inspection class and a test through the Department of Motor Vehicles, he also acquired a license to do inspections. He’d like to concentrate on the electrical aspects of vehicles and is considering an electrical engineering degree in the future.
In the meantime, there are plenty of experts at Rye Brook Service Center getting him up to speed. Besides Lamberti and Scarfone, he likes to pick mechanic Danny Novillo’s brain, too.
“Danny has become a mentor, who is really one of the most patient people I know and helps me even when he’s extremely busy,” he said. “I’m learning so much here. These mechanics have over 50 years of experience between them. Essentially, they’re car doctors.”