Jaffarian Service was started in 1938 by Fred Jaffarian, the first Armenian-American born in Haverhill, when he leased a gas station on Haverhill’s River Street. He and his wife, Alice, worked at a nearby shoe factory, leaving the gas station’s management to cousin Charlie. Every day, Fred and Alice went straight from the shoe factory to work the gas station, eventually phasing out that grueling schedule when the station became successful.
Their son, Richard (second generation), worked at the service station after school, learning on the job how to fix cars.
In the early ’50s, they switched from Hudsons to Ramblers and added more service bays.
Richard, unsatisfied with Rambler’s quality, wanted something better. After hours of library research — he found a solution: Volvo of Sweden. Richard’s ability to handle everything gave Fred time to help the community that had carried his family business to success. He sponsored sports and other youth activities in Haverhill and volunteered often.
An unusual, tank-like vehicle rolled into the station. It was a Toyota Land Cruiser, driven by a sales representative looking to sign on new dealers. The truck’s quality impressed Richard, and Jaffarian Service became one of New England’s original Toyota dealerships. Richard’s son Gary (third generation) dreamed of someday running the station. As he and younger brothers Paul and Mark grew, they took on tasks to fully learn the business starting with sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms. Gary so relished this work that he’d hitchhike there after school.
The gas islands gave way to a state-of-the-art showroom. When Toyota’s quality faltered, Richard knew it was just a glitch. He stuck with the Japanese manufacturer and encouraged other dealers to follow suit. His firstborn son knew and loved the vehicles, too. Gary shared his knowledge with customers, accompanying them on test-drives before he even had a license. He studied at Northern Essex Community College and Merrimack College so he could work at Jaffarian Service after classes. Gary had clearly inherited the Jaffarian work ethic (in the history of the business, Richard took just one week of vacation a year).
After Fred passed away in 1976, the business continued to thrive under Richard’s guidance. Through smart decisions and diehard determination, they remained successful through tough times: the 1970s gas crisis, sky-high interest rates, and recessions.
The family gradually acquired adjacent properties to expand, for example, the 6,000-square-foot Collision Center. Mark found his niche in the body shop, while Paul built a far-reaching reputation as the go-to-guy for auto parts.
The current showroom opens. Richard and Paul have since passed away, but Jaffarian Service’s dedication to its customers is as vital as ever. Today, Mark continues to run the Collision Center, Gary is President and CEO, and his son, Gavin (four generation) is the General Manager of Volvo Cars.