There’s no shortage of auto body repair shops in the downtown Phoenix area, so much so that it’s difficult to distinguish one from another — that is, with the exception of Miguel’s Auto Body on 16th Street between Van Buren and Monroe streets. Atop the business is a 5-foot-tall Star of David.
One patron who frequents the Circle K next door said the star has been there since he’s been in the area. He just assumed the owners were Jewish — as have many people, undoubtedly, who have noticed the star as they’ve driven past.
But the body shop’s owner, Miguel Lopez, is actually Catholic.
So how did a Star of David end up perched above Lopez’s store for more than 30 years?
Lopez was born in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, and lived in Mexico City as a child. He grew up in an area called Tecamachalco, which has a large Jewish population. Lopez said he developed strong connections and became friends with many of his Jewish neighbors.
In fact, he said those connections helped make him the man he is today — and he feels Jewish in his heart.
“I think that Jewish people are the hardest-working and smartest people I’ve met,” Lopez said. “I’ve tried to be like them as I’ve built my business.”
Lopez was raised a Catholic and he and is wife have raised their children Catholic as well. But when Lopez first arrived in the U.S., he just didn’t feel as strong a connection to the Catholic community.
“My father didn’t know anyone when he got here,” said Guillermo, Lopez’s son. “So he built the star as a way to have a daily reminder of his Jewish
The elder Lopez built the Star of David decoration himself using nothing more than seven pieces of long pine wood and some nails. He then wrapped it with white string lights so it can be lit at night. In the center of the Star of David is a flashing Chanukah ornament.
“We never use it as a reason to attract anybody,” Guillermo said. “It’s not really something people comment on, either. In all the time I’ve worked here, maybe two or three people have noticed it. Although, we did have one Jewish customer who came to us because he heard about the star.”
The star was originally mounted above the entrance to the auto body shop’s office, but it was later moved after heavy winds knocked it over.
The elder Lopez has been in the auto body business since he was a teenager. He and his family moved to the United States in 1978, and that same year he opened up his auto body repair shop in Phoenix. In 1982, he moved the shop to its current location at 101 N. 16th St.
Since then, the Lopez family has expanded the auto body shop and now has multiple locations down the street.
Guillermo joked that the only locations they couldn’t own are where a Jack in the Box and the Circle K sit.
He said he wants to keep growing the business until all of 16th Street has Lopez auto body shops.
When asked if they observed any Jewish traditions or holidays, Guillermo said they weren’t particularly religious and didn’t celebrate many Christian holidays, either. Both father and son said they are simply too busy to take any time off.
“The store is my life, it’s my holiday,” Lopez said. “So I really want to spend my time on working on it.” JN