To defray the costs of building his first garage in 1977, Shawn Moody helped build the structure. At one point, he was climbing a ladder and hauling shingles with a cast on his ankle after his stepbrother pinned him with a Thunderbird in a prank gone wrong. Doing that work himself, even when injured, meant that Moody was able to pay off the land and construction costs in only two years. He was seventeen years old.
While that first garage was austere (insulation would come later), it quickly became a go-to spot for the Gorham High School community to get their cars repaired. Moody remembers that teachers were some of his best customers as word spread of his venture throughout the school.
The school community would come through in other ways to help Moody’s business succeed. As a teenager, he wasn’t familiar with zoning laws and he discovered too late that he’d built his garage in a residential area. When he tried to get the town council to change the zoning of the area, he had longtime friends and neighbors speaking out against him and the effort ultimately failed.
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Afraid his shop would be shut down, Moody tried again – but for an expansion of a non-conforming use. This time, community members, including Gorham High principal Mark Eastman, Police Chief Ed Hagan, town council members and neighbors showed up to speak in support of the variance. The permit was granted.
As his business was getting off the ground, Moody lived simply. Almost too simply, he reminisces. He had one room off the garage that had a bed, a metal shower, and a toilet. For several years he set up camp there, and saw no need to have more than that. “I loved what I was doing, and when I went home it was just to sleep. I worked seven days a week.”
His dedication was paying off, though, and Moody started to expand the business’ reach. He’d gotten to know a local junkyard owner, even staying with him as a teenager when times were tough. When the junkyard went up for sale, Moody stepped up. He converted it into an auto recycling facility named Gorham Auto Parts and improved the facility to the level where they received the “Gold Seal” award from the Automotive Recycling Association for operational and environmental excellence.
Moody’s auto recycling operation caught the attention of a new capital venture group, LKQ, and Moody negotiated what he admits was a risky deal to sell the business. Part of the deal included stock options, though the company hadn’t even yet issued an IPO. This was in the early 2000s, and since then the stock of LKQ has appreciated nearly 300%.
Recognizing Moody’s business acumen, LKQ kept him on the payroll for a year and half, sending him across the country to help other auto recycling facilities increase their efficiency and profitability. Moody says of the experience, “That was my MBA.”
Since 2001, Moody has focused on expanding his original business. Needless to say, he’s been successful. In the last 15 years, Moody’s has grown from one location in Gorham with a staff of ten to nine locations with 150 co-workers, making Moody’s Co-Worker Owned the largest independent collision repair operation in the northeast. Moody is intent that others share the credit for its success. That includes people like Mark Eastman, the principal at Gorham High School who made a huge impact on Moody’s life.
“I was living life on the edge…he was a steady hand on my shoulder,” says Moody of his former principal.
Community support helped get Moody’s to where it is today, and Moody keeps that at the forefront of his mind. “Why do we try to give back to the community? It’s because without the community we wouldn’t be here. To this day I will never forget that,” he says.
The list of organizations and causes Moody’s supports is lengthy and varied. From participating in local Gorham chili and chowder challenges to organizing food drives for food pantries and animal shelters to supporting the Children’s Museum of Maine, the business lends a helping hand to thousands of Mainers.
Without the overall success of the business, though, none of that would be possible. Moody is also quick to share credit for his business success with his co-workers. Eschewing the word ‘employee,’ Moody not only verbally commits to the fact that everyone at the company is dependent on each other’s success, but he also has taken steps to concretely demonstrate that to his co-workers. Everyone has a key to the shop, everyone has access to profit records, everyone shares in the company’s profits, and everyone gets stock in the company as part of their retirement plan.
Moody also gives of his own time, serving on both the University System and Community College Boards. He sees this work as vital to bringing economic success to rural Maine, noting that the state must bridge the gap between blue collar and white collar workers. “We need to tell the white collar world practical application and experiential knowledge is necessary, and tell the blue collar world there are benefits to further training, skills, and education,” he says.
Moody’s wife, Chrissi, deserves credit for his success, too, he explains, saying that “Being married to someone who is self-employed is a commitment; you’re marrying their passion and their business, too.”
Committed to his community, his state, and his family, Moody has built a business on his values and it has thrived beyond what he could have dreamed as a high school senior. Never forgetting his roots, and forever looking for ways to help others, Moody’s impact reaches across Maine and is much more than just his business’ success. That’s why Shawn Moody is a Maine Icon.