Doray Enterprises, a gas and automotive station once known as Elmwood Service, has been doing business in Great Neck longer than most people can remember.
It began with Tony Plakstis, an avid racing fan. Ray Plakstis Sr. then ran the business and taught his sons the trade. Ray Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming the third generation owner with his wife, Donna, and their two sons, Tyler and Ryan.
“It’s not a franchise,” Donna Plakstis said in an interview. “It’s a family business.”
Fred Shaw, a longtime neighbor of the Plakstis family business, said via email that the family “can point to 75 years of serving the community since its founding by the grandfather of Ray Plakstis Jr.” – the business has been under the Doray name for nearly 50 years.
But with the death of Raymond Jr., a former Alert Fire Company fire chief and deputy mayor, at 57 from what most believe to be 9/11-related cancer, it’s down to Donna Plakstis and the boys.
And the business’s future is an open question.
Donna Plakstis said that between rising taxes and competition from car dealerships, which offer free oil changes and other incentives, business has become more difficult.
“And it’s not just our station – it’s a lot of stations that are closing down,” Plakstis said. “People think that gas brings in money, but it doesn’t. It just brings in customers.”
She noted that Doray Enterprises, on Steamboat Road, went well beyond just supplying gas and fixing cars. It would handle “anything that people need.”
This included “therapy sessions,” where people would come to “talk about the good, the bad, the everything” – and still does. Ray Plakstis Jr. had also gone to handle snakes in backyards, problems with garage doors and the fuel needs of people following Superstorm Sandy.
“Ray just always went above and beyond to help people,” Donna Plakstis said.
In the Doray Enterprises office, old family photos still hang on the walls. Some involve racing – Tony Plakstis and his son were big fans. One highlights the return of “neighbor” Ray Sr. after seven years. There are also two photos of both Rays posing together in front of the office.
“It’s disheartening and it’s painful and nobody wants to see us close, but … there’s no point in trying to save a sinking ship,” Donna Plakstis said. “But we’re going to try, we’re going to give it our all, and whatever’s going to be is meant to be.”
Asked what she would do if things do not work out with the business, Plakstis said the family would likely leave Great Neck and move east to be closer to family.
“There’s lots of memories here – and not that I want to leave the memories, they will always be in my heart, but–”
“You can’t make something feel the same when it’s not,” her son Ryan, who focuses more on the business side of things, chimed in.
But for the moment, they’re open for business.
“We’re still here right now,” Tyler, who handles the more mechanical ends of the business, said.