by Alana Quartuccio
The Massachusetts auto body community is as strong as it is today thanks to those who share their voice and have helped stand up for what is right. AASP/MA would not be where it is today if it weren’t for the collision repair professionals who helped lay that foundation. New England Automotive Report has been periodically catching up with some of AASP/MA’s founding fathers. This month, we tracked down Paul Hendricks, a founding member of AASP/MA, former Massachusetts Auto Body Association (MABA) and Alliance president and owner of Hendricks Auto Body (Uxbridge) to pick his brain about the early days and to see what life is like post-retirement.
New England Automotive Report: When did you first get into the industry?
Paul Hendricks: I’ve been in the automotive industry all my life; I would say it all began in 1966, when I worked at a dealership while still in high school. I spent two years in college and then went into the military for four years. After that, I started working in the parts department for a dealership and became the parts manager. Then I went to Fireman’s Fund Insurance company to work as an appraiser. I later owned and operated Hendricks Body Shop in Uxbridge until I retired. I also have an independent appraisal company that I still own and work with today. So, I’ve been in the industry almost all my life, and I turned 75 in October.
NEAR: How did you get involved with the association (MABA at the time)?
PH: I was working at the Fireman’s Fund Insurance company as an appraiser when I first walked into Ace Auto Body in Worcester. The owner, Jim Angelico, offered me a job. It was like a TV show…he made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Jim was president of MABA, and therefore I got heavily involved with the association and attended many meetings. So, that’s how I got into the auto body end of the industry.
NEAR: You also served on the Board of Directors. What are your memories from those days? What were some of the biggest accomplishments?
PH: I was heavily involved and served as the president of MABA at the time three associations merged – MABA, the Central Mass Auto Rebuilders Association (CMARA) and AASP. As for accomplishments, the industry improved immensely through education. The association offers very good training. And I’ve met some great people.
NEAR: As you mentioned, you were instrumental in the merging of all three state associations into AASP/MA in 2010. How did that come about?
PH: We weren’t surviving by ourselves. Each association was just trying to get off the ground. We were three associations working on the same issues, and each association wasn’t big enough to fight the insurance companies independently. That is the main reason that the three of us merged; we just couldn’t do it by ourselves. At the time of the merger, I was president of MABA, Tom Ricci was president of CMARA, and Rick Starbard was president of AASP/MA. Later, when we were under the AASP/MA name, the three of us took turns serving as president.
NEAR: What were some of the obstacles?
PH: Some of the obstacles were finances. Some of the associations were a lot stronger than others. At that time, AASP was 90 percent mechanical and only 10 percent body shop, whereas CMARA and MABA were obviously 100 percent auto body. AASP was national, and that’s why we went with that, instead of being under CMARA or MABA, because we had more backing through a national group. Strength in numbers.
NEAR: When did you decide to retire and why?
PH: My health made me retire. I didn’t want to die in the frickin’ body shop.
NEAR: What have you been doing in the time since you retired?
PH: Sleeping (laughs). I joined a rod and gun club. I hadn’t shot a weapon in over 50 years since the military. I went to brunch with a friend of mine one day, and he convinced me to join the Nipmuc Rod and Gun Club in Uptown. I became the director, and I run their skeet show. I don’t personally hunt or anything like that, but I do run the skeet show, which is shooting clay targets. We shoot twice a week – Sundays and Thursday mornings. I’m heavily into riding my motorcycle. I go out and ride with the Massachusetts veterans motorcycle club at least once a month. I have a 100 year anniversary model Harley and I go everywhere on my bike. It’s got 80,000 miles on it. I’ll be out on it today.
NEAR: Any other hobbies?
PH: Riding is my biggest hobby, but I have a new grandson, and that has been a big improvement in my life. He lives in Virginia. He’ll be two years old this month, so my wife and I travel out to Virginia quite a bit. I go to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It’s huge, probably the biggest in the country. I went with a fellow body shop owner, Jim Audet (Precision Auto Rebuilders; Dudley) and a couple of other friends. We spent 10 days there. That was on my bucket list. It was an excellent time.
NEAR: Looking back now, some years removed, what comes to mind when you think about your time in the body shop industry?
PH: I made a good income. I felt I could get as much education as I could through the associations, and I think I became a very good negotiator. I don’t think I personally loved the body shop industry. I don’t think anybody does, so much. It’s just a way to make a living. I enjoyed the customers. I enjoyed the hassles. I am still involved in arbitration through my appraisal company and still do quite a few arbitrations.
NEAR: What do you miss most? Least?
PH: I would definitely say the customers are what I miss most. I had a very good rapport with the customers. What I miss the least is the ignorance of some insurance appraisers who have to deal with the stupidity and the ridiculous rules of their industry.
NEAR: What is the one thing you feel you got from working in this industry that you would not have gotten if you chose a different career path?
PH: That’s a really good question. I would say it’s the relationships. Believe it or not, I still deal with one of my customers. He’s 91 years old. It’s the relationships I built with people. You feel really good when they come in after you repair their vehicle and are just amazed by the work you have done. It’s overwhelming.
Want more? Check out the November 2023 issue of New England Automotive Report!