Cancer, COVID can’t stop Saint John NAPA shop from serving, smiling – and singingBy Kristen Lipscombe
When Danny Joyce was 18 years old, he asked the owners of a closed down Texaco service station in his hometown of Saint John, N.B., if he could buy the shop. They refused to entertain the enthusiastic young teen’s offer.
A year later, the persistent then 19-year-old made his ambitious proposal again, pointing out that “it’s still closed, so why don’t you give me a shot?” So they did.
“I had a nice little Corvette car, and I sold that, and I took that money and I bought myself a load of gas, and a load of oil and a new tire balancer, and a new changer, and still had a few dollars left over, and we went to work – and we’ve been here ever since.”
“Ever since” is 44 years, to be exact. Co-owners Danny and wife Sharon work as a team both at home and in the workplace, which had its name changed appropriately to Joyce’s Corner, Ltd. With four and a half decades of family dedication behind it, the NAPA AUTOPRO shop located on Wellesley Avenue has a loyal following of local customers that now span generations.
“I’ve had a lot of my customers for 44 years,” Danny said, “and then I have their children, and now I have their children’s children coming in!”
At the end of the day, “it doesn’t matter who walks through the door,” Danny said. “You do the best you can for each customer.”
He also emphasized that he refers to his four staff members working the bays as mechanics, not technicians. He admits to being old school with the terminology. “We don’t just put stuff on; we try to fix it and then see if we can make it work.”
Danny also likes to stay “in the bay and fix cars and talk to people.” He’s a great talker, and very friendly, a trait that comes across clearly speaking to him over the phone. That sparkling personality has surely helped him retain all of those loyal customers.
“My wife does everything else,” the now 64-year-old Danny said of his younger business partner (she’s 63) that also happens to be his “high school sweetheart.”
“She orders the parts, makes up the bills, pays the bills, makes sure the boys gets paid, looks after the boys in the bay, and basically takes care of everything else.”
One of the Joyce’s three children works in the shop, 27-year-old Brad, who is learning the ropes to see if he likes the business. “I don’t push anything ever, I just let them go with the flow and if it feels good, fine,” Danny said.
Meanwhile, 30-year-old Dan is a sales representative and 26-year-old Christina is a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Danny and Sharon are proud of all of their chosen career paths.
Finding passion and positivity in life – no matter the circumstances – is important to the Joyce family, and that includes activities outside of work. For Danny, one such hobby is singing. And not just singing in the shower, but singing national anthems at both small town and big-time hockey games.
“I do a little singing here and there,” Danny admitted. In fact, he’s sang his heart out at countless local minor hockey games, for the former Saint John Flames of the American Hockey League (AHL), for the current Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) – and most recently, for his favourite team of all-time.
After Danny was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, his son Dan reached out to the Calgary Flames and got him a gig singing the Canadian and American national anthems virtually before a game against the Montreal Canadians. It was for a National Hockey League (NHL) cancer awareness campaign.
“I got into a health issue there back in February,” Danny described. “I was diagnosed with cancer; a tumor on my esophagus, so I had to go for the radiation and the chemotherapy… So I missed a few months of work and then I had a pretty big surgery done and that put me back.”
Sharon kept the shop running while Danny battled. “My wife came to work every morning at quarter-to-eight and the guys were so good with her. They made sure everything got done. All my customers knew what was going on… they were really good about it.”
But getting to step onto a fresh sheet of ice at TD Station, formerly known as Harbour Station, the major Saint John arena, as the spotlight shone down as he belted it out for his Flames live on Hockey Night in Canada – now that’s a cure that can’t be beat.
“I got a call from George Canyon, the country singer,” Danny recalled. “He’s the one who does the anthem for the Calgary Flames and he’s the one who had to ‘okay’ it to let me step in and do it that night. And as soon as it aired, about 10 minutes later, he called me at home to tell me what a great job I did. He talked to me for a half an hour about everything under the sun… and he invited me to go out next year to Calgary and do it again right at the Saddledome!”
Currently, Danny can only work half-days, coming into Joyce’s Corner to help where he can every morning, but he loses weight throughout the day due to stomach complications, although he is slowly gaining his health and strength back.
“It just goes to show you how loyal the customers are and how loyal the employers are, when they can pick up the slack because I’m not here. They still get everything done.”
And Sharon, “she manages to get it done and keeps smiling the whole time.”
Despite his health struggles, Danny’s own energy radiates while speaking with Auto and Trucking Atlantic. You can almost hear him smiling, too.
That positivity also radiated through television screens across the continent, as he ended his epic performance by giving a “thumbs up” to his captive audience.
“All over town, wherever I go now,” Danny chuckles, “people give me the thumbs up all the time.”
As for how much longer Danny plans to keep running Joyce’s Corner? “Just until forever.”