July 25, 2010

Independent Moody faces new challenge

Shawn Moody, who built his business from the ground up, says, 'Different is what Maine needs right now.'

By Matt Wickenheiser mwickenheiser@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

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Shawn Moody, candidate for governor, was one of four panelists discussing employee stock option plans Friday at Moody's Collision Center in Gorham.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Shawn Moody says he feels confident about his candidacy and suggests that his opponents should be worried. “As people get to know who I am, we’re going to take off,” he said.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

He started hanging around a shop that worked exclusively on Corvettes, and was soon working on the cars, stripping them and helping out. The owners would take him to races, and he'd often deliver Corvettes for them.

"I was like living a dream for a kid," Moody said.

He worked there until he was 17, then decided to open his own business. He bought a small lot off Narragansett Street from Clint Allen, a friend whom his mother had been married to briefly and who owned Gorham Auto Parts, a sprawling junkyard adjacent to the lot.

He borrowed $6,000 and helped a local builder construct a three-bay, plywood garage. He graduated from high school a year later, in 1978, and had several employees. It was then that the town informed Moody that his property wasn't zoned for business.

In what became a big neighborhood fight, Moody successfully got the town to approve his business for the lot. During public testimony, a number of community leaders showed up to support him, including Eastman, his principal.

Eastman said Moody was one of a group of unusually entrepreneurial students -- none of them strong in academics, but all very focused in other areas. Moody might not have followed all the regulations in getting his business going, but Eastman said he respected him.

"What he was doing was good business for the community, and it was great for him," Eastman said. "I believed in what he was trying to do."

Moody said the moment was important, and the support he received left him with a sense that he owed the community.

"It just kind of rang that bell -- it's people that matter," Moody said.

When he was younger, Moody would drag race at tracks around the state. He got his pilot's license in the 1990s, and today flies experimental planes from a friend's rural airstrip.

He expanded his business in the mid-1980s. In 1988, he bought Allen's junkyard, cleaned it up and organized it. In five years, he received a top industry award for operations. In 1998, he sold the yard to LKQ in what he described as a "multimillion-dollar deal." Moody was without debt, and the money from the deal fueled the growth of his collision center business.

The company began to expand in 2001, and now has locations in Gorham, Scarborough, Biddeford, Portland and Sanford. Moody, as president, is more involved in planning and strategy for the company. He works with communities where a new Moody's is planned, and decides where to go next. When they construct a new building, Moody's acts as its own general contractor, and Moody works on site, as well.

George Harrison, who has worked for Moody since 1988, starting in the salvage yard, said his boss has always had business foresight. He points to Moody's push to set up the business as an employee stock option plan to take care of retirement for the workers, or his decision to sell the yard to LKQ Corp., which today is a thriving business.

Moody, said Harrison, "knows that working-class people need to succeed."

His brother, Michael Harrison, also works for Moody. He sees "a huge political vacuum" that his boss might fill.

"We need a very pragmatic person to go in and clear the cloud of politics out," he said.

When Moody told George Harrison he was running for governor, he said, "I never knew you liked politics." Moody told him that he didn't, he just couldn't "sit back."

Moody's campaign headquarters is just down Narragansett Street from Moody's Collision, in the building that used to be the junkyard offices.

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