WATERVILLE  — Hard work, long workdays and a strong family unit.

That’s what Maurice Bard, founder of Maurice & Son Auto Body Shop, said recently of the success of the business he started learning as a teenager growing up in Waterville.

The business, located at 232A College Ave. in Waterville, has been named the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year.

Maurice’s son Mike, 44, and his wife, Michelle, 49, are the current owners.

“It feels very good,” Maurice Bard said of the award. “I’m very proud of Michael and Michelle.”

“It’s an honor,” Mike Bard said. “When I was told, it was like … I didn’t even know.”

Maurice Bard said he got started early in the business that would become his lifelong passion.

“When I was in high school, I worked for David Mathieu. That’s where I learned the trade,” said Maurice Bard, 75. “I worked a lot. I worked hard and I worked a lot. I’d open the shop at 8 in the morning, and usually I worked until about 10 o’clock every night. Then I started hiring people to help.”

Maurice Bard said he was employed at Keyes Fibre, now Huhtamaki Packaging, in 1965-66, doing his own auto body work on the side. In 1967, Maurice operated his business at his West Street garage in Fairfield and was able to leave Keyes Fibre and operate the auto body shop full time.  The business flourished. Maurice expanded his operations and increased the number of employees to meet demand, according to program material from the Chamber.

He married his wife, Barbara, in 1963.

Mike Bard is the youngest of four siblings, and he grew up in his father’s business. Starting as a cleanup kid around the age of 12, Mike cleaned the shop and the vehicles. He learned the trade by tearing down vehicles and helping with repairs with his father and the employees. At the age of 24, when Maurice retired in 1997, Mike bought the business. The business now has 11 employees, including Mike and Michelle Bard, who live in Benton.

Did the founder’s work ethic get passed on to his son and his family?

Yup.

“Hard work, quality repair and a good location,” Mike Bard said. “I think our reputation gives us a fair amount of work all by itself.”

Michelle Bard agreed.

“It’s very successful,” she said of the business. “I attribute that to word of mouth and the quality of the work and how we treat our people, too. They show their quality in their work.”

Kimberly Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, said the Business of the Year Award is given to an area business that “exemplifies commitment to growth within the community through an expansion of workforce, major renovations and/or foresight” and that contributes to the overall well-being of the community.

“It is so wonderful to watch a family-owned business like Maurice & Son Auto Body Shop grow from generation to generation, and that is exactly what Mike and Michelle Bard have done,” Lindlof said. “And when you are there, you feel like you’re home, surrounded by family in a comfortable, living-room setting. The facility is clean, accommodating and state-of-the-art. I can’t wait to see where the next generation (already working there) takes it from here.” 

In 2008, Maurice & Son Auto Body expanded its footprint with a 4,500-square-foot addition at the West Street location in Fairfield. By 2015 the Bards realized they had outgrown the garage space while trying to relocate the paint booth at the shop. The decision was made to take a leap of faith, and the Bards bought 9 acres at 232A College Avenue in Waterville. Construction started in May 2017. With hard work and perseverance, the new, state-of-the-art, 12,500-square-foot body shop, with three offices, a reception area and a waiting room, opened in November 2017.

Maurice & Son Auto Body remains a family-owned and -operated business today. The Bards’ daughter, Emily, works in the front office. Mike and Michelle Bard are proud of their technicians and estimator that make it all possible.

The 56th annual awards ceremony is being held April 25 at Enchanted Gables in Oakland.

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