LAKEVILLE — Clearly, business owner Dave Rose is a man who likes to keep busy. When he’s not running around supervising operations at his successful auto body shop on Taunton Street, he still manages to find the time to train for regular participation in tri-athlete competitions, do some seasonal hunting and fishing, and gather his family at their Long Pond cottage for weekend recreation activities in the summer months.
But on this fine summer morning in early July, Rose mostly wants to talk about Dave’s Auto Body, located for the past 38 years at 53 Taunton Street, not all the other things that keep him and wife Colleen bustling year round.
“This year, we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary,” he noted, looking back on the history of the business he started in 1977 in a rented garage in his hometown of Taunton. “How lucky we are to be business survivors for 40 years,” he said at the outset of his walk down memory lane.
The career path Rose had chosen to follow over four decades began as a teenager, when the high schooler landed a part-time job in a neighborhood garage. “I worked in a repair shop when I was 15, knowing nothing about cars... I was picking up tools, sweeping out the shop, and washing cars,” he remembered.
“A couple of old-timers took me under their wing. They taught me a lot, because I showed a lot of interest” in learning the business of repairing cars, he said. “By the time I was 19, I could put a car back together on my own.”
Rose spent a year working at Ford and Chevy dealerships, then at age 20, “went out on my own” in a rented garage in Taunton, staying there for three years. In 1980, he and his new bride bought the Lakeville property and moved their growing business operation there.
Over the years, the auto body shop continued to expand from the small garage just off Taunton Street where he fixed cars and trucks at the start. Before long, a two-stall garage was added for repair work, with an office suite above, and another free-standing building added for final assembly and finish work, Rose reported.
Today, the busy shop employs three workers – two full-time body men and a full-time painting specialist. A nephew has been helping out part-time for seven years, maintaining the grounds of the Taunton Street compound and three commercial properties the couple has purchased over the years as his “retirement account,” he said.
One staff member has been helping Rose repair vehicles for 30 years; the painter has been working with him for 18 years, he noted. Both were hired right out of Bristol-Plymouth Vocational High School, and have stuck with him “because I take good care of them” with good wages and benefits, he said.
With his wife planning to retire in two years, Rose is getting ready to scale back his business involvement after 40 years. His two veteran workers will lease the body shop, “and it will keep on going, just the way it is,” he suggested.
Actually, Rose doesn’t call his primary business operation a body shop. “We’re a full collision shop, and 90 percent of our business is insurance claims,” he explained. “We don’t do any restoration work (on wrecks or old cars), or repairing rust on antiques.”
“The business has changed tremendously over the years,” with automotive technological advances making it much harder to return a damaged car to perfect working order. “There’s so much electronics in today’s cars” that repair crews these days must be “electricians, plumbers, and mechanics” as well as body men and painters, Rose said.
The rubber hammers and dent pullers of days past have been replaced by high-tech gear like a Buske portable frame-puller, and an Akzo Nobel computerized paint mixing system, which scans a car’s paint job to make sure of a flawless match. The repair team typically pushes six to eight cars through the facility each week, he noted.
Through it all, a simple dedication to producing nothing but satisfied customers has helped the business grow through the decades, Rose said. Top-quality service is provided whether the job is a small dent or a major reconstruction, he stressed.
Computers, cell phones and other technology are just as important in the office, where Rose handles all the paperwork associated with the busy schedule. As you can imagine, handling the insurance claims involved in doing that volume of business requires a lot of time and energy, Rose said.
“It’s tough dealing with the insurance companies” paying for the repair work in most cases, he noted, but he seems to have the process down to a science after earning decades of experience dealing with the big companies. He seems to spend half his time in the office on the phone with adjusters, parts suppliers, and vehicle owners, keeping everything in order and on schedule.
The only exceptions to the steady stream of vehicles coming and going from the shop has been the acquisition of a pair of “collectibles” stashed away in one of his garages for special occasion use. One is a 2011 Dodge Challenger Inaugural Edition, a Hemi-powered original that recalls the muscular styling of the 1970 Challenger he rebuilt years ago; and a 2007 GT Shelby 500, another “very rare car” that this lifelong car guy clearly loves.
They are just a small part of the non-business hours, in which he runs or swims in training for his triathalons, or enjoys the slower-paced weekends at the lakeside cottage with the grandchildren, or goes hiking with Colleen. “That little place on the lake is a great getaway for us,” he notes.
His office is filled with posters of Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins standouts, hinting at other interests too. A big glass cabinet is filled with trophies of the local youth athletics teams sponsored by the business, and newspaper clipping detailing the involvement of daughters Heidi and Heather on some Apponequet High championship softball teams are also prominently displayed.
But the walls also sport clipboards detailing the maintenance chores needed at Rose’s commercial properties on Main Street in Lakeville, and Route 28 in Middleboro. There’s always something to be done on a busy day by the bustling entrepreneur, but he doesn’t mind the grind.
“We enjoy keeping busy,” the 60 year-old businessman confesses at the end of the interview. “I’ve been my own boss almost my whole life, and we’ve worked hard. It’s been very rewarding.”