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Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00

Blackie’s Body Shop in TN Endures Changing Industry

Cars are a lot different, and the business of an auto body shop is too, since Delmus “Blackie” Moore opened a body shop on Fourth Street in Downtown Memphis in 1951.

The business of body work is much faster, with less time for the custom work that once was much of Blackie Moore’s stock in trade.

And Blackie’s Body Shop has added a name as it has moved over the decades.

Dallas Moore, the current owner and son of Blackie Moore, added what he calls a second name to the business – Memphis Auto Body Collision – on the advice of the insurance companies that now define the business of auto body repairs.

“Insurance companies control this industry. If you have a wreck and you report it, they’ve actually got their own body shops that bow down to them,” Moore said this month in the office of the business at 5408 Pleasant View Road in Raleigh. “They cut the labor rate, don’t charge any storage, do all the work for them – estimating for free. … We’ve got a name and we can help people with their deductibles.”

In his father’s day, it was called a “discount,” and the body shop continues the practice of a lifetime warranty on work as long as you own the car.

Blackie’s still does body work repairs that aren’t insurance claims, and the family business has generations of customers who know it as Blackie’sBlackie Moore started his body shop after moving to Memphis from California, where he had worked as a welder in shipyards during World War II.

“His cousin was a body man in California. … He did welding at night and his cousin worked at a body shop during the day,” Dallas Moore said. “He was fascinated. He picked up fast how to put cars together, cut them in half, do custom work, do body work.”

The family moved to Memphis in the early 1950s. Blackie’s opened on Fourth Street Downtown in 1951 and did auto custom work in the age when cars had big fins and lots of chrome and other metal.In his office, Dallas Moore points to a display case of memorabilia that includes a photo of a 1958 DeSoto.

“If you look real hard, there’s no door handles,” Moore said. “A push button was under the windshield wiper button.”
“We’re a production shop for insurance companies. That’s where the money is. Custom work is time-consuming," said Dallas Moore, Owner, Memphis Auto Body Collision.

The custom body work is a thing of the past.

“We’re a production shop for insurance companies,” Moore said. “That’s where the money is. Custom work is time-consuming. Restoration is time-consuming, and most people just don’t want to pay the big bucks to do it. The insurance companies pay by the hour.”

Moore recalls the “biggest wreck I ever had” – meaning the highest dollar figure to repair damage for a car brought to his shop.It was a new 2012 Camaro with $20,000 in damages the owner wanted repaired.

From Fourth Street, Blackie’s moved to Gayoso Avenue and then to Chelsea Avenue in North Memphis. Dallas Moore bought the current site on Pleasant View in 1978, two years after his father died, but didn’t move the business immediately because of the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The move came in the mid-1980s.

Moore himself moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1987 and rented the business out, which kept the name. He returned in 1992.

Moore has two sons who work in the business, one as a painter.

“I told them, ‘You are never going to get rich in this business, but you will never want for anything,’” he said.

Another truth of the body shop business is the cars Moore and others who work in the business drive.

“We’re in the car business. We don’t have car notes,” Moore said, noting he’s driving a Trail Blazer that came into the shop in 2006 as a $37,000 car its owner had wrecked shortly after buying it new. But the owner let the insurance lapse before the wreck.

Moore filed a lien and got the car’s title.

“It took me a year to build, but it only cost me $3,000,” he added. “If you’re not in a rush you can take your time, fix it when your men are slow and find parts reasonable.”

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