Prologue: I’m posting this in 2022, heading closer to 2023 and I look back at how fucking weird shitshow 2020 was. I still try to wrap my head around the last 2+ years. But we move on because we have to. In 2020, many past photo clients had small businesses and I thought about them frequently. I wanted to document and showcase how they were managing through this unexpected reality. This was #smallbizlifeOC – a simple project documenting small businesses in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
This is Carlos Jimenez, owner of @oldgroveauto, established in 2012. When I visited, he told me how the shop came to be and that it was almost incidental. Carlos said he would get complaints at his dad’s house for having too many car projects on the residence. I laughed as I could relate. While growing up I always had a relative with 1 or 2 non-working cars on the side of the driveway or sometimes in the backyard. To resolve this, Carlos set out to find a commercial space to house the personal car projects. He came to find a space off of Nutwood St. in Garden Grove, but was advised that the leased spaces were for commercial only and he needed a business license. Without skipping a beat, Carlos headed to city hall and got a business license, and opened Old Grove Auto. It wasn’t his intention to start a business, but there he was anyway. At the time, he was still working at Autozone, but the word of mouth about his new shop spread quickly. He is very involved in the community, where he attends city council meetings and participates and donates his time to community events. The business has flourished, and as he puts it, “It just snowballed from there.” Carlos had a well-established business for over 8 years when Covid hit. Like everyone else, there was concern about not only his and his family’s health, but his livelihood as well. During the initial lockdown, there was a huge reduction of commuters on the road, as masses of people transitioned to work remotely from home. This worried Carlos that his business would slow down or cease to exist entirely. He works with major car insurance companies on auto body repair claims for common fender benders and it was feasible that there would be a big reduction of work with people not commuting. Carlos was fortunate, however, because as his steady insurance work declined, he noticed more people, who had the means to, were starting to work on personal projects again. He would get classic & vintage car restorations, and updated paint/body work on people’s “fun” cars. The amount of work remained steady, and Carlos was thankful. We end with these final words from Carlos, “Amid all the turmoil that is going on in the world, I hope/wish that people would remember their humanity and treat others better. Have some empathy, because we never know what others are going through. And the best way to get through these hard times is together.”
B&W images made with 35mm Kodak Tri-X on a Leica M6.
Color images made with 120 Kodak Portra 400 on a Hasselblad 501c.