Alexandria business owner Jeff Yates dies at 63

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Yates with his brothers and father. Left to right: John Godfrey Yates Jr., Joseph Harding Yates, John Godfrey Yates Sr. (father), James Nicholas Yates, Jeffrey Lee Yates and Jason Allan Yates.
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By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Jeffrey Lee Yates, a prominent Alexandria business owner, died of cancer on Feb. 22. He was 63.

The Yates name is stamped across Alexandria on various businesses owned and operated by different members of the family. Yates owned Yates Car Wash & Detail Center, Table Talk Restaurant, Automotive Service Garage and Old Town Auto Body and Paint, in addition to the under-construction Yates Pizzeria on Duke Street.

“I just think he loved people so much that he liked getting in there and fixing things up, and he liked mentoring employees,” Yates’ son, Jeffrey Lee Yates Jr. said. “He liked people. He liked people to rely on him and for him to rely on his employees. That was probably a big part of his passion.”

Growing up, Yates worked at his family business, Yates Gulf Service, and developed an interest in both the automotive industry and business operations.

He had been a successful entrepreneur since he used his automotive experience to open Yates Auto Parts and Hardware in 1977 and turn the business into a regional conglomerate with his brother Jim. That first successful business led Yates to pursue his interest in acquiring real estate and operating businesses.

Yates in the lobby of Yates Car Wash & Detail Center

“The word for him was owner-operator,” Yates Jr. said. “I mean, he was hands on. He was never interested in kind of going into the rarified air of being some sort of just landlord. He always wanted to be involved.”

Nick Kapetanakis, the main manager at Table Talk Restaurant, said Yates often spent time working and helping out at the restaurant.

“He was a very diligent and caring person,” Kapetanakis said. “No matter what you’re doing, he would always try to help. … When we got busy, he made it a point to be here. He will be dearly missed. We really do miss his smile and his humor.”

Yates’ son said his father often acquired real estate that was significant to him personally or the city of Alexandria.

Yates with his three children. Left to right: Jessica, Jeff Sr., Jeff Jr. and Jacquelyn (Jackie)

“They were almost always the same story, where … he saved something near and dear to Alexandria, or it was sentimental to him,” Yates Jr. said, “or maybe a bit of both, because Generous George’s [where Yates Pizzeria is being built] and Table Talk were very sentimental in terms of our family. Anytime it was rainy, and the carwash was closed, we’d go there.”

He said, though his father is often known for his many businesses, he was also an outdoorsman and enjoyed spending time with family.

“He worked hard, but he played just as hard,” Yates Jr. said. “We really loved the outdoors and just appreciated being out in the elements and doing activities, really his whole life.”

Yates skies out West with son, Jeffrey Jr., and youngest daughter, Jessica.

Yates taught his three children how to ski and enjoyed planning family vacations.

“He loved taking us to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware every summer,” Yates Jr. said.

“We would go to the same place and all cram into a timeshare and get Grotto’s Pizza and Thrasher’s French Fries. He’d stay on the beach out in the sun all day.”

Yates was born on Nov. 2, 1954 at Maxwell Airforce Base in Montgomery, Alabama, to parents John Godfrey, a naval officer, and Lena Mary Yates. He graduated from Oxon Hill High School in 1972 and went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1976.

Yates is preceded in death by his parents and his brother Joseph Harding Yates.

Yates with his fiancée, Connie Sofia.

He is survived by his fiancée, Connie Sofia; his three children, Jacquelyn Marie Nevin, Jeffrey Lee Yates, Jr., and Jessica Nicolina Yates; their mother, Mary Vanderberry Yates; and his three grandchildren, Grace, William, and Olivia. He is also survived by brothers John Godfrey Yates, Jr., James Nicholas Yates, Jason Allan Yates; sister-in-law Virginia White Yates; and many loving nephews and nieces.

“He was the love of my life and I miss him with every breath that I take,” Yates’ fiancé, Connie Sophia, said.

Relatives and friends may call at Everly Wheatley Funeral Home on Friday, March 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held at the same location on Saturday, March 3, at 11 a.m. The interment will be held at Ivy Hill Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to support the Bladder Cancer Research Fund at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

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