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Pelham Auto Parts
Pelham Auto Parts
Owner-mechanics Carl Seppala (left) and Eyituoyo Amoye tinker on a Volkswagen at Pelham Auto Parts, a collective specializing in foreign cars.
Back in 1978, Louis Hasbrouck co-owned an auto service shop in Amherst, Massachusetts. He loved to tinker on foreign cars but hated the management and the paperwork, so he and his partner David Mosher converted the shop into Pelham Auto Parts, a mechanics' collective.

Now the business decisions are made by a half-dozen owner-mechanics, and the administrative work is handled by Gayton Hebert, secretary, bookkeeper, office manager and part-owner who joined in 1985.

Once the mechanics took ownership of the shop, they built an auto parts store next door, providing fast access to German and Japanese parts to speed up service. "You get the muffler in three minutes instead of 20," Hebert said.

Business has been brisk, and the recession has helped to boost profits by 20% this year because "people are fixing their old cars instead of buying new," he said.

The collective is planning to make three more mechanics into owners, which means they'll have a role in setting their own schedules. Hebert compared the owner-mechanics to "free range chickens" because they "come and go on their own."

NEXT: Ronin Tech Collective

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LAST UPDATE: Sep 23 2009 | 11:41 AM ET
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