There is much to be told about the garage on the corner of Willow Spring Road and Cleveland Avenue in Dundalk. Since 1922, it was originally the home of “Community Garage Co.” and was started by Flaminio Rossi who came to the United States from Italy in 1906. Flaminio and May Rossi had eight children; three sons and five daughters. Flaminio and his sons did most of the work, like towing, auto repairs and body work. The girls pumped gasoline, washed cars and did bookkeeping.
On August 7th, 1927, The Baltimore Sun Paper article headlined, “This Lass Sells Gas, with Rhymes for Romance” talked about how Enes Rossi, at 18 years old, became the manager of Community Garage after completing public school. Maggie (the only surviving sibling) and Norma also worked at the garage, doing whatever needed to be done. Much of the complete history of the garage has been provided by Maggie through personal accounts, photos and newspaper clippings. We are forever indebted to her for preserving this legacy.
In the early years, the garage was utilized for new and used car and truck sales, auto repairs, gasoline service station, towing services and storage. New cars sold were Hudson, Essex, Terraplane, Chrysler, Plymouth, Willys, Jeep, International and GMC trucks. The phone number was simply “Dundalk 1”
At the front corner of the building next to the alley was the G & A Grocery Store, operated by the Bell Family who also rented an apartment upstairs. Customers could also store their cars at the garage for just $2.00 per month. It was home to the first McMahon School Bus Service and the upstairs rooms were used for various community groups such as the Dundalk Moose Lodge, Knights of Columbus, American Legion and Dundalk Chamber of Commerce. The new car showroom was used for housing voting machines during election time and the basement also served as a community air-raid shelter during the war.
Flaminio Rossi proudly became an American citizen in 1932 and helped to organize the first Dundalk 4th of July parade in 1935. He won first prize in 1937 for wrapping a brand new Terraplane in aluminium foil. The new car showroom was used for voting machines during election time. The basement also served as an air-raid shelter during the war.
During World War II, in 1941, Mr. Rossi ceased auto repairs and gasoline sales to engage in war production materials. The garage and showroom were converted into a machine shop where up to 40 employees worked 2-3 shifts according to the work demand. The business was called Roscal Inc. and completed defense work for the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
In later years, the garage was leased by C&P Telephone Co. for storage of equipment and trucks. The Cleveland Avenue half of the building was rented to Woolfords A-1 Service where auto repairs and towing were performed. The other side was home to Atwater Cab Co and Aston Furniture Installations.
The Rossi’s eventually sold the building in 1977 to Edward (Ned) Griffith. When Aston Furniture moved out, Ned’s son, Alec Griffith found an interesting use for the vacant garage. In January of 1984, under the name Chelsea Productions, he produced the first rock video of it’s kind in Baltimore. The garage was transformed into a studio with a full stage, lighting and over 80 extras while Ricky Von and his band performed. Edie the egg lady, a regular in John Waters films was among the crowd that day.
In June of 1988, Royal Auto Service opened for business doing reconditioning, auto mechanical repairs and body and paint repairs. In 2018, after 30 years, the business was split off and Community Auto Body was formed in honor of the many years, hard work and devotion of the Rossi family as Community Garage Co. We are blessed to follow in their footsteps.