When he was 9 or 10 years old, John Biafore tagged along with his older brothers when they worked on cars.
“We’d rebuild engines and go to the drag strip – Eldora Raceway – on weekends,” he said.
Back in the day, “hot rods” were all the rage; Chevelles, Camaros, Challengers and Chargers, just to name a few.
From Glen Elk, the brothers frequented the Hot Rod Shop, located on Route 50 in Clarksburg.
Biafore eventually moved to Bridgeport. So did the Hot Rod Shop. He took ownership of the business in 1989 and 10 years later purchased the former Pure Food Store on Water Street, where the store – its exterior painted like a black and white checkered race flag – is still located.
Biafore learned a lot about cars growing up. It’s a passion that inspired him to make it his life’s work.
“I like working on cars and trucks – and I like helping people,” he said. “I knew the owners – Joe and Anthony Zurzolo – and knew they wanted to sell the business.”
Before moving it to its present location, Biafore operated the business out of the building on Route 50 West (just below the entrance to Home Depot) now occupied by Classic Car Stereos. The Off Road Hot Rod Shop had been located there about 10 years before Biafore purchased it and he ran the store out of the same building for another 10 years.
In addition to changes in physical location, the business has evolved in other ways. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the store thrived on the sale and installation of carburetors, headers, cam shaft lifters, wheels, tires and other items for muscle cars. By the 1980s, the hype for hot rods shifted and all the rage was about trucks.
“Now, we do more lift kits, fog lights and big wheels and tires,” Biafore said.
The Off Road Hot Rod Shop is a pretty specialized store. Frequenting the business are customers from a 100-mile radius. Anything you see in or on a truck is available for purchase at the longtime business establishment. The shop also carries items for cars and other vehicles, from decorative seat covers to rain guards.
A few years ago, Biafore remodeled his store, replacing the ceiling, walls and flooring and generally brightening up the place. Like its eye-catching exterior, the interior features a classic black and white theme.
Biafore manages daily operations of the Hot Rod Shop, which is open 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. He spends weekends with his family and other passions, such as fishing.
He’s been through some tough times, including the 2017 death of his wife Denise.
“Life is too short. I know how important it is to spend time with family,” said Biafore, referring to his daughter Alexia, son-in-law Michael Burge and son Samuel.