Dick opened C&C Auto Body in 1972 after several years in the automotive business. His friend and mentor, John Kabboord, helped him along the way. When the owner of the building was going to sell the property Dick wanted to rent, Kabboord stepped in to negotiate on his behalf.
“He told me, ‘You owe Paul [the owner of the building] a thousand dollars and a thousand a month until you pay off the ten thousand.’”
After opening, Dick continued to work at another auto body shop across the street during the day. His evenings were full as he transformed C&C from a former cabinet store into a full-service auto body shop. ”I worked there all day, and then I’d roll my tool box over here and work on a few cars.”
Dick bought equipment from a supplier who also transformed his business. “He came to me one evening and said ‘Dick, I’ve got you a wrecker.’ On the side of it, it said ‘Dick’s Towing’ because it came from Dick’s Towing in Melbourne. He let me pay him monthly and that’s how I got started towing.”
Tow Truck Network
Once Dick bought a tow truck, he became part of a community network that serviced Cocoa Beach.
“In those days, it was Bishop’s Gulf, the Shell Station, and Cocoa Beach Paint and Body, so there were four of us. We all took turns and we each got a week a month. When there was a wreck, whoever’s week it was would go and pick it up.”
Once he got the wrecker, his business increased. Customers he picked up from accidents often had repairs made in his shop. But he wasn’t always guaranteed wrecks. Cocoa Beach was still a small town and there weren’t accidents every week. “Some weeks you might make out and some weeks you got nothing. It just worked that way.”
Dick upgraded over the years to huge tow trucks. “I like to tow tractor trailer wrecks. You have to really work at it. I just like moving the cars out of the way and opening the road up as quick as I can.”
Todd’s wife Jennifer overheard us from the office and called out, ”He could probably do it in his sleep.”
An Early Education
Dick’s son Todd grew up in his father’s shop. As a child he did everything from sweeping the floors to running the office. He started working on cars when he was only seven or eight years old. “The first thing I remember doing as a kid was driving the wrecker. I was six.”
Dick added, “He said he could drive it and I said, ‘Ok, go to turn it around.”
Todd continued, “My first trip was just backing down the street driving. That was my weekend entertainment, driving up and down the street. I had to sit forward on the edge seat and look through the steering wheel.”
Passing the Torch
Todd officially took ownership C&C in November of last year. Despite retirement, Dick still works seven days a week. “I’m trying to get a couple things done and then can go. I have an RV and I want to go travel, but there’s a few things I have to work out first.”
Todd is excited about the challenges of ownership. “I know the business. I’d like to continue to serve Cocoa Beach; there’s a lot of growth in this area. I just want to give people the same quality of service they’ve had for forty years.”
One challenge is attracting new clients. The shop is behind Ocean Realty, Brevard Insurance, and 7-Eleven and it’s difficult to see it from the road.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re here,” Todd noted. “We offer auto body repair, mechanical repair, towing. We also offer full-service automotive, except tires and mufflers.”
A fire truck in their parking lot caught our attention. “We work on everything, including fire trucks,” Todd added with a smile.
Dave Harris, a mechanic with them for several years, located a problem in a hose that caused a leak in the fire truck’s air conditioning system.
Dick complimented him, “Dave’s great. People follow him wherever he works.”
“It’s tough finding qualified people,” Todd added. “This is a very skilled trade, especially the auto body side of it. Cars are very technical now so you have to have technical knowledge and you keep an eye on the art side of the work. You have to be a perfectionist.”
There are great technical schools that specialize in training people [automotive], but Todd believes the key is to get practical experience and actually work in a shop. He suggested they start by sweeping floors.
“The computers are helpful in diagnosing the problems in cars but it really takes a technician who is able to replace the part and fix the car properly. The computer is a necessity but it doesn’t fix the car, it still takes a skilled person.”
RV Dreams Come True
A few years ago, another one of Dick’s dreams came true. “I got a free motorhome. I wanted one since I was three years old. Another company towed it here but the owner never claimed it. We went to court and I lucked out.”
We walked outside and caught a glimpse of a massive motorhome that looked like Aerosmith’s tour bus. He joked, “It’s just a little teeny one.”
Todd Cornwell, Dave Harris and the rest of the C&C Auto Body team are ready to tackle your automotive needs. C&C Auto Body is located at 111 Manatee LN, Cocoa Beach. For more information, visit their Facebook page, go to their website at www.ccautobodyfl.com or call 321-783-9494.
We would like to thank The Beachside Resident for reprint permission.