by Thomas Greco
Allow me to take the opportunity this month to tell you a body shop fairy tale…
Once upon a time, there was this good-looking kid who was an average student, a decent athlete and pretty popular. He got along with most of the kids throughout his grammar, junior high and high school years. He played some baseball and very little basketball (at least he called it basketball), but it was on the football field where I first met him. At the time, I had a little more experience than he did, and in fact, I made the midget all star team, and he didn’t. (And he will gladly claim that was the last time I ever did anything better than him.) We came from different parts of town. Didn’t have much in common. We were more acquaintances than friends at that point. My dad owned a construction business. His dad owned a body shop.
Naturally, we became teammates during our high school years. His star rose, while mine descended due to my lusting after an older woman (she was 18). But he didn’t have it easy. He was a bit of a wild child, while I, of course, was a saint. I have a distinct memory of seeing him leaning against the wall of the locker room while we were out practicing on the field. Again, as we weren’t really friends, all I knew was that he either had to work at the shop or that he was in trouble for doing something his dad didn’t approve of.
By the time we were seniors, he was the star running back who all the girls loved, and my football career was long gone along with the 18-year-old. After graduation, I really didn’t see him. We both went off to work for our fathers. My bricklaying career was as successful as my football career and my love life, so by the following year, I was in college while he was spending endless hours doing the grunt work at the shop.
Fast forward 10 years. By that time, I had started my company, was publishing New Jersey Automotive and serving on the Board of AASP/NJ. At one general meeting in Rochelle Park, who should walk through the door but my old midget league football (not an all star) acquaintance? All of sudden, it was like we were best friends for life. We started reminiscing about our youth, and what do you know, we actually did have a lot in common. Now more than ever.
He was still at his dad’s shop. But by now, he was running it, of course. A few short years later, he bought his dad out and took over the shop and even decided, (with a little prodding by this midget league football all star) to join the AASP/NJ Board. He put in his time and moved all the way up to AASP/NJ President. He even played a huge role in bringing all of the state body shop associations to merge into one. Not bad. Not bad at all.
But that was nothing.
Next thing you know, he’s buying a huge building in our hometown and turning it into one of the finest body shops in the state. He had taken the seeds that his father planted and turned them into a full blown forest of success.
Now, I bet you’re waiting for the tragic turn here, aren’t you? But didn’t I say this was a fairy tale? And don’t fairy tales have happy endings? Well, this one sure does.
Earlier this year, he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. He sold the shop that HE built into a powerhouse, and retired last week.
I can’t help but think back to that heartbroken kid leaning against that locker room wall, so upset that he couldn’t get out onto the football field. I doubt he remembers that day, but I do.
Good luck and God bless you.
Let your story be a fairy tale for all others in this industry to follow and strive for.
Just never forget while you’re sipping your champagne in Florida…
…I was a midget league football all star.
Want more? Check out the May 2023 issue of New Jersey Automotive!