MAHOPAC, N.Y. - There are lots of reasons Mavis Discount Tire has been a fixture on Route 6 in Mahopac for over 30 years, but the biggest one is an Italian immigrant with a love for people—and a knack for doing things the right way.

Born in Italy, Vinny Papa arrived in the United States with his family when he was 9 years old. Papa grew up in Elmsford, got married in 1979 and moved to Somers. In 1986 he had an opportunity to own the first Mavis store franchise, and the rest is history.

“I didn’t expect it to last this long,“ said Papa, a past-President of the Somers Lions Club whose warm personality and infectious smile instantly put people at ease. “But we have a good formula for business: I was raised by my mom, and she always taught me to do the right thing.”

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Doing the right thing, as it turns out, has been a big part of Papa’s success at Mavis, which is centrally located between Mahopac, Somers and Yorktown.

When Papa opened his business, he knew he wanted to be around for a long time, and he knew he wanted to be part of the community.

“I knew I was here for the long haul, so I got involved with all the chambers, coached the kids growing up,” he said.

And he made sure his employees shared his ‘family feel’ philosophy.

“I knew I’d be seeing everyone around town, so I always told the guys to treat people like family,” he said. “And now we’re into the second and third generations (of customers)… It’s a good feeling, but it also lets you know how long you’ve been around,“ Papa joked.

One of the things Papa enjoys most about his work is having family involved. Papa’s nephew, Moe D’Ippolito, is the store Sales Manager, and has been part of the business for 25 years. Papa’s son-in-law, Justin White, came on 10 years ago and is the current Store Manager.

People who know Papa agree on one thing – a big reason for the store’s success is Papa’s personality and ability to relate to people.

“Most Saturdays I walk around town and hold my head up high,” he said. “I know I’ve done the right thing for everybody...The people I work with, we know each other, we back each other up, help each other out.

“And we have a good formula for the rest—the right price, quality service and the best repair times,” he added. “And we try to accept everyone who walks through the door. We can handle a lot of people at one time, and that’s very important to me. I don’t want to turn anyone away. We do the work in a timely fashion, but still deliver top quality work.”

Discounted tires are the specialty at Mavis, but Papa’s business also specializes in alignment, brakes, shocks and struts, suspensions and exhaust systems, as well as oil changes, inspections and generally all under-hood services.

Papa also happens to be one of only two Mavis franchise owners — out of 450 Mavis stores nationwide. The other privately-owned store is in Rhinebeck. The other 448 stores are owned by the Sorbaro brothers — whose father sold Papa his business.

That happened only because Papa was in the right place at the right time.

After graduating from Bryant College in Rhode Island in 1977, Papa went for an interview in New York City with Mavis owner Victor Sorbaro. “The owner had one question for me,” Papa said – ‘What did your father do for a living?’ I told him my father was an immigrant who worked in construction.

“The fact that I was from a hard-working family was all he needed to know,” Papa added. “So I went from being a Store Manager, to being a District Manager of 13 stores. Later on he said he wanted to try the franchise thing, and see how it worked — for a trial period.”

So Papa had his franchise, one of only two that were sold by Sorbaro, and opened in 1986.

“That was a great opportunity, and I took advantage of it,” Papa said. “A year later and it never would’ve happened.”

And Papa learned there are many benefits of being a national brand.

“We get support, products and more from a national company,” he explained. “And we can still treat people like a local business. We follow their guidelines, then we tweak it to meet the needs of our own customers. We wouldn’t be able to offer the low prices we do if we were not part of a large, national company. It was really a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

Papa loves being involved with local organizations, charities and anything involving community, and can usually be found at local functions — either helping out or participating.

“We are involved with the Chamber of Commerce in Mahopac and Somers, and we support many local groups from all three communities, including Yorktown.

“They support me, so I try to give back to the community, support local groups… spread the love,” Papa added. “We try to make people feel special. I brought that philosophy to our business, and when I look in the mirror I feel good, and know I’m giving back to the community. And that’s a really good feeling.”

Mavis is located at 66 Miller Road, Mahopac. Call 845-628-2050.