Louie Graves was 13-years-old 50 years ago when his father started Graves Body Shop in Hamlet.
The shop, now located on Vance Street in downtown Hamlet, was once on Gibson Smith Road.
According to Graves, his father worked at Bennett Chevrolet Buick when it was located where Graves Body Shop is now.
“My dad worked there for 22 years,” said Graves. “Then he quit and opened his own place. He spent 10 years there and we moved up here in 1973.”
By then the dealership consolidated with the Sandhills Chevrolet and relocated to the dealership that is now Dieffenbach GM Superstore.
In the early ’60s and ’70s, there wasn’t much body work to be done, with less cars on the roads, but paint jobs were a-plenty.
“We used to do a lot of painting,” said Graves. “Back then, the original paint job only lasted three to four years. And the paint we put on wasn’t very good. The paint we use now is very good paint but it’s expensive.”
Back then, Graves said a car paint job cost $85.
“Today I paint a mirror for $85,” said Graves. “Paint and thinner was $11 then, now it’s $65.”
His father passed away in 1999, 10 years after retiring from the shop. They didn’t have any computers in the shop’s office at that point, now they have four.
“That’s how times change,” said Graves.
Having officially opened the Graves Body Shop in 1963, the shop has hit its 50th year mark. Graves is retired now but still comes to the shop often. His daughter-in-law Joy Graves runs his office and he has a few people on staff that have been there for more than five years.
Graves said his favorite kind of car to work on is “a wrecked car.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.