Auto mechanic has the drive

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The Purdy Automotive grand opening is set for Saturday, Jan. 12. The Purdy Automotive grand opening is set for Saturday, Jan. 12.

Purdy Collision owner to open Purdy Automotive at former Kennedy’s site

GALLOWAY – Mayor Don Purdy says he likes to put his money where his mouth is.

And like his heart, he said Thursday, Dec. 20, his mouth and his money are all in his hometown of Galloway.

“I could have built anyplace and got tax abatements,” the longtime automotive business operator said. “But I want to be in Galloway Township. I believe in the future here and want to be part of it.”

The owner of Purdy Collision on the White Horse Pike at Third Avenue is ready to open Purdy Automotive near Sixth Avenue on the site of the former Kennedy’s Farm Market.

Purdy Collision occupies a 27,000 square foot building set back from the eastbound lanes of the pike. The new building is 16,200 square feet on the westbound side.

“The new location is good,” Purdy said. “Financially, it has a chance to be bigger.”

Purdy Collision specializes in body work. Purdy Automotive will deal with anything from oil changes to engine replacement.

Purdy Automotive is scheduled to open 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 with a grand opening celebration planned for 9 a.m. Oil changes will be $14.95 on opening day.

“It is a 14-bay full-service center with a drive-through service check-in,” Purdy said. “The 7,500 square feet of retail space includes everything for automotive needs, from wheels and tires to automotive electronics and after-market accessories.”

There is another 1,200 square feet of office and conference space, he said.

“The whole building is masonry – rock face block,” Purdy said. “Harry Harper is the architect. It’s a Cherry Hill style building. What other building looks like that for automotive? I didn’t want it to look like a garage – it’s a service center.”

Purdy said he got his first motorcycle when he was 6.

“I took it apart in the garage, and then I couldn’t put it back together again,” he said. “My father had to hire someone to reassemble it. But I knew I wanted to know how to do that. I’ve probably had over 30. I’d work on the side of the house. Didn’t have a garage; still don’t.”

Purdy, who said he started his towing business in 1997, started working on cars when he was 13.

“I painted my first car when I was 14,” he said. “I did work for friends. Steve Allgeyer, who I met at 14, had a motorcycle that needed welding. I hung out at Port Republic; lived out of Steve Allgeyer’s garage. His sister Jacqueline is one of my best friends.”

The Allgeyer siblings gave him his start as a mechanic, he said.

“I got my first job wrenching at 16,” Purdy said. “At Absegami I worked half-days at Sears Automotive Center. I could fix the cars, but I couldn’t drive them.”

After graduating from high school in 1990, Purdy worked at Bradford Buick in West Atlantic City, Precision Chevrolet in Mays Landing and at Bennett Chevrolet in Egg Harbor Township.

“The whole time, I worked at Steve Allgeyer’s garage at night,” he said. “We’d build trucks. I probably built over 100 trucks. People would come in with wrecked trucks. It was a hobby. I’d buy the various parts. From when I was 17, I always had three or four tagged vehicles.”

While Purdy worked as a mechanic at Bennett’s, he made friends with body man Charlie Schmidt.

“I knew the backyard way of doing bodywork,” Purdy said. “He taught me the right ways. That old guy was the best. At 1 a.m. I’d be in the garage. I had a problem. He’d be up doing the same thing. He’d talk me through it.”

In 1994, Purdy was in a motorcycle accident that kept him out of work eight or nine months.

“Bennett kept my job for me,” Purdy said. “When I returned to work my wrist was fused. It was hard to work as a regular mechanic. In my ventures, I found a wrecked tow truck. I took all the money I had saved and bought it.”

And that turned out to be the easy part. By the time he made the big decision, he was married to Michele.

“And then I told my wife,” Purdy said. “We had a 1-year-old son at the time. I told her I was going into business for myself.”

His wife – then as now – was supportive.

“I think I knew then if we survived that, we’d survive anything,” Michele Purdy said. “I didn’t kill him. With his work ethic I knew he would do it even if it took 100 hours a week.”

There were some 100-hour weeks, Don Purdy said.

“We lived in my parents’ house. We were saving up,” Purdy said. “We bought a piece of property to build on in 2000. It took us four years to build. We didn’t want a big mortgage. I knew one day we’d leverage the house.”

He also connected with another person who helped him get a start in business, Chuck Filling.

“He owns Pomona Garage at Pomona Road and Route 30,” Purdy said. “He gave me a place to operate my towing business – helped me get my start. Charlie Schmidt introduced me to Chuck Filling.”

But a couple of trucks and a small towing business weren’t enough for the ambitious young man.

“For my growing family I needed brick and mortar for stability and to grow my business,” Purdy said. “I figured with my love of automotive-related business to go back to my roots and build a body shop. I definitely wanted it to be in Galloway.”

He started plans for his body shop in 2006 and opened Purdy Collision Sept. 1, 2007.

“I put my house on the line to build it,” Purdy said. “I also had help from another friend, Tony Bruno of Port Republic. He was my bank.”

He opened Purdy Collision with four employees – an office manager, a painter, a body man and an estimate writer.

“Now we have 24 employees,” Purdy said. “I always plan for the next project. In 2011 I started fleet maintenance at the collision center and decided to build another operation for automotive repair.”

He said he has the latest tooling of any area body shop.

“We fix everything from golf carts to tractor trailers,” Purdy said. “No job is too small or too large. We’re one of the biggest body shops in the state.”

He went back to Bruno to fund construction of Purdy Automotive.

His wife said the neighbors are happy to have them.

“They’re all in line to be our first customer,” Michele Purdy said. “They say the noise will be less than what they hear from the pike.”

Don Purdy said he talked to the neighbors and gave them a choice of the fence appearance for the back of the property.

The Purdys said they expect some synergy between the two locations less than a mile apart.

“I plan to employ 15 at the new place, plus shuttle drivers for both,” Purdy said. “We’ll have 24-hour towing. Purdy Collision will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Purdy Automotive will be open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.”

What’s next?

“I’m big with fleet work,” Purdy said. “My next move will be to West Galloway.”

Michele and Don Purdy in front of their new business during its construction. Michele and Don Purdy in front of their new business during its construction.

The Purdy Automotive logo directs customers to the various departments. The Purdy Automotive logo directs customers to the various departments.

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