Camille, the big league youngster from Lebanon
Writen by freelance: Farook Aman, Ottawa, Canada
The summer of 2019 dictated the misfortune of running my car against the newly low levelled built stone wall partition positioned between my house drive way and that of my west side neighbour’s. I was distressed. I went to see my nephew to seek help. Atheer is perhaps the most successful General Auto Sales Manager of a famed dealership (Hyundai, Hunt Club) in the Ottawa region.
I asked Atheer where the closest and most efficient body shop in Ottawa. Atheer scribbled something on a piece of paper and rapidly handed it to me.
“Here Uncle,” he said, “Camille is the answer. His body shop is just a block away from here. Go see him. You will be pleased with his work”.
JR Elite Auto Sales (and Body Shop) is located on Jamie Street, off Merivale Road, in the south end Industrial Area of Ottawa.
At the shop, I asked if I could see Camille. Someone yelled for him. Few second later, I saw a young man pointing his finger towards me while I was waiting and admiring the uniquely looking vehicles for sale at the show room; a gull-winged sports Ferrari, an imposing Italian SUV Lamborghini, an attractive looking white Lexus, a black SUV Mercedes, and a silver-coloured 4×4 wide tires BMW. The wandering customers in the show room smelt of money and obvious high social status!
A shining bold-headed muscular 6 footer man walked briskly towards me. He flashed a smile as he extended his hand to shake mine. He said, “Yes sir, I am Camille. What can I do for you?”
“My nephew, Atheer sent me to see you,” I promptly responded, “I am Farook. I hit a stone wall partition.”.
At the front parking lot of the body shop, Camille inspected the ugly looking deep damage at the rear right door.
With confidence, he said, “We can fix it in 2 days; one day for body job. Painting and drying, the following day. Come next week, we will fix you good. I respect Atheer!”
I asked how much would it cost?
Camille smiled and retorted, “Don’t worry. You will be happy and so would Atheer too.”
The car was indeed appropriately repaired. The Price was affordable too.
Unfortunately, 3 weeks to the day of the first accident, I hit the same protruding stone wall partition again! Cursing under my breath, “Damn it, I must move from this stone wall neighbour.
As I parked my car at JR Body Shop, I saw Camille talking to a customer few feet away. I got out of the car and waived to the inquisitive face of Camille. I was mumbling, “Yes, I did it again!”
“O, no!” Camille’s voice hit me. “Don’t worry; we will fix it, Farook”.
He remembered my name?
The car was repaired again and I was really impressed with Camille’s personality; the sincere and the proficient manner he conducts his business.
I thought to myself.” Why don’t I offer to invite Camille for lunch at a famous nearby Chinese Buffet, just 2 blocks away from his shop?”
Camille humbly agreed. However, we could never have lunch due to conflict of scheduling, until February 12, 2020, when I came to see Camille after my newly purchased 2019 Sonata slid and hit a rock solid snow bank as I was wheeling into my drive way, while attempting to avoid a vehicle that was parked in the middle of the street, dangerously close to the entrance of my drive way.. This time the damage was worse compared to the damage caused to my former 2014 Sonata.
Camille pointed out that I would have to purchase what he called dealership parts only. “Expensive” He remarked, “but no parts available in the open market for new cars, other than the dealerships!”
My nephew, Atheer, helped again. The parts were delivered to Camille’s body shop. Camille recommended that I should not get my low-levelled Sport Sonata repaired until the continued horrific winter weather eases a bit around March or April 2020. Meanwhile, we arranged to have lunch the very next day!
I picked up Camille from his shop and drove two blocks away to the Chinese Buffet restaurant. Wanting to strike a conversation and knowing very little about Camille, I decided to ask him about his life and that of his family, too.
Camille was open to answering modestly and always smiling. This is the part of the story that captured my attention, imagination, and admiration which prompted preparing this article.
Camille explained that he came from Lebanon to Ottawa in 1989. He was only 14 years old. His uncle, the owner of a famous down town Colonnade Pizza Restaurant, sponsored him. He attended school and worked at the restaurant shredding and blending two main cheese ingredients for pizza.
Camille had immense passion for cars. The one time famous Penny Savers Ad paper was regularly advertising, among other stuff, cars for sale in the Auto Trade section. Camille bought dirt cheap cars and sold them. With his limited and basic experience and knowledge, he fixed cars and sold them making striking weekly profit margins, while schooling and working at his uncle’s Pizza restaurant too. When he accumulated sufficient funds, he ventured to open a small body shop at the south end of Ottawa; Bentley Street, off Merivale Road. With his buoyant and cheerful personality, competence and resolve, the business picked up fairly fast and profitable too.
Camille saw a potential prospect to expand and break through the barrier of big time league player. All signs were go for him. Bright future was evidently floating on the horizon for this 29 years old young man.
In 2004, Big Time fortune strikes. A spacious warehouse facility was available for sale only a block away from his humble Bentley Street body shop. Camille did not hesitate to instantly negotiate the sale in spite of his then inadequate financial resources.
For years, the selling old man owner had leased the facility to various small businesses in an open space set up. He was willing to let go of the facility, as is, for $465,000, equivalent to what would be now around $4.5 million. The seller was not open to fixing, cleaning or burdening himself with any renovations or adjustments as part of the sale deal.
Witty as he is, Camille negotiated a conditional sale price of $425,000, pending finalizing the bank mortgage approval, which the old man seller magically contracted to. Camille made a cash deposit, $25,000. He knew that he had to move swiftly against the fast ticking clock, as ambitious prospective buyers were lining up through the seller’s Real Estate Agent.
The first-rate news came when the back ground check by the bank was satisfactory and the mortgage was thereby approved. However, Camille was not aware of yet one more hurdle to cross; the old man seller changed his mind and forced a new sale price. It was a take or leave $450,000 instead of the agreed upon $425,000. It was an unexpected but a shocking blow to Camille’s constraint budget. Nevertheless Camille agreed to the new price and managed to come up with the additional $25,000. He did not wish to turn this fortune into a court room fiasco by suing the seller. He knew that the potential prospect of expanding his business was more important. An additional outlay of about $200,000 was also dedicated over the following months to essential renovations and cleaning up of the multi-facet space facility that was housing the various small businesses. The deal was finally concluded after Camille had once felt as if he was standing at the precarious steep edge of a hill that would have swallowed him thereby denying him his life time entrepreneurship dream to come true.
He finally took ownership of the new 25,000 sq.ft. facility plus a reasonably- sized parking area. There was a mammoth work ahead of him. Luck strikes again when Camille’s 4 landed-immigrant brothers arrived from Lebanon and joined him. He spent many sleepless nights working to the wee hours of the morning attending to customers’ requests and gaining outstanding and admirable name in the auto body industry. This fast moving success however took its toll; it was at the expense of his love life which was painfully collapsing in front of his eyes.
As a younger man, Camille had a white Anglo Saxon friend who struggled with his life style, and regrettably ended up incarcerated for a short-lived period of time. Camille never gave up on his friend; he helped him in whatsoever shape or form he could provide to get his friend out of prison. The friend’s talented son, who lived in Toronto, was a big time impending rising star in the music industry. Indeed, the son soon became a super star celebrity in Canada and the USA, while his father remains to this day on a daily contact with his Ottawa friend, Camille. The super musical star addresses Camille: Uncle Camille. He is none other than the famous name of Justin Bieber!
One of the main Auto dealerships in the neighbouring area had managed to acquire properties up and down Jamie Street. They were and are aiming for expansion. Indeed they also asked to buy out Camille’s, offering millions of dollars. Camille politely declined the offer. He was not willing to give away his gold mine business yet and let down dozens of his skilled workers employees.
Camille continues to be the humble smiling and hard working man who made it big in the Auto industry, repairing damaged vehicles as well as taking advantage of buying and selling regular as well as unique VIP vehicles, some worth an average price of about $300,000 plus each.
I cannot help but admire this young man, Camille.
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