By Chase Clough
TJ Copeland, owner of Copeland’s Garage in Warren, ME, runs a shop that takes care of its customers the same way he would want to be taken care of, and the satisfaction and loyalty of the customer base is evident.
In business since 1995, Copeland’s Garage has always been family owned and operated, founded by TJ’s father, Rodney and himself before he took over. Since its opening, the shop has grown beyond what anyone in the family initially envisioned.
Even now, Copeland says his parents remain involved with the shop. His father still does the shop’s deposits and balances the bank accounts and his mother, Carolyn, does all the QuickBooks entries. “I’m very fortunate to be able to have their help and to see and spend time with them on a regular basis,” Copeland says.
With a population of roughly 5,000 citizens, Warren is located near the eastern coast, along Maine’s St. George River and offers scenic views at every turn. This is perfect for TJ’s off-road Jeep driving and airplane-flying hobbies. The Copeland men custom-built a 1946 Willy’s CJ2A that they were able to test drive on the notorious off-roading trails of Moab, UT.
With a dedicated team of nine, Copeland says he is most proud of the good standing reputation he and his team have all built together. One of his favorite things to do is talk with other shop owners, discussing how they each handle different scenarios, congratulating each other with the good and supporting through the not-so-good.
His number one piece of advice to other owners? “Set aside the same percentage of every single deposit for a separate reserve account specifically for equipment and future emergencies. Knowing there is a set amount of funds tucked away for an emergency allows for a sense of security – and you never know when that money will come in handy!”
While he is full of sensible advice, Copeland also recognizes when it’s a good time to take a chance. About three years ago, he says, the got a phone call from an inmate in Warren’s minimum-security state prison. The inmate had originally reached out to a friend of his, another local shop owner, who recommended he call Copeland instead. His only references were from his home state of Tennessee and a shop in Maine about 100 miles away. Luckily, Copeland knew those shop owners directly and they sang their praises about the inmate’s character and abilities. “We hired him with no regrets, and he was an excellent asset to our business for over a year and a half before he was able to return to Tennessee,” Copeland says.
Since then, Copeland has hired another former inmate from the same facility who was recommended by the guard personnel running the prison repair shop. He is now pursuing a career with Copeland’s Garage. TJ sings his praises: “He is also a great asset and is focused on doing the correct things in life moving forward. He fits in with us and it shows.”
As his shop has continued to grow, Copeland shares how things have changed since he started working with DRIVE. Before becoming a DRIVE client, Copeland says he was handling everything in the front and back of shop, while also being responsible for executive duties. Now? He rarely has to man the front desk, only assisting in special circumstances. “The stress level is much lower than before,” he says. “Little changes make huge differences.” He even feels comfortable enough to leave his business to run by itself for days at a time! He expands on how useful DRIVE has been for him: “The money we have put into DRIVE has multiplied itself many times in both monetary and knowledge value.”
As exemplified by his commitment to giving a hand-up when needed, Copeland says his shop only succeeds as a team.
“Everything we have in our business has been built from the ground up as a collective effort of my family, which includes all of our current and past employees and many close friends,” Copeland explains. “I have had a major part in all of it but wouldn’t have gotten where we are without the support of everyone else. Our business is for all of our futures and is a joint effort to benefit us all.”
For more information about this topic or DRIVE, call Carolyn Gray at 818-863-1077; or email [email protected]