Our story starts in 1930, when Jim Cahillane moved from Ireland to Northampton; bringing his relentless work ethic and lovable demeanor with him. In his early years here, he fought his way to become a local boxing champion. He went by “Jim Callahan” because he thought that Callahan was a little bit easier for us Americans to get used to saying than Cahillane. His involvement with our community was enormous and multi-faceted.
Jim rented a gas station on King Street and ran it as Jim Callahan’s Tire & Battery Service. It featured a small fleet of tow trucks, which became an irreplaceable catalyst of his success (and the beginning of our towing legacy).
In the late 1940’s, Jim left his King Street garage for a more ambitious venture: a Hudson dealership immediately next door to his family home on South Street. Through the years, the brands of cars changed, as did the name. During the 1950’s, Jim changed the sign on the building back to Cahillane. A few years later, Jim had the Cahillane name carved in stone here in Northampton by serving two consecutive terms as our mayor.
Truthfully, we still have regular customers who call us “Callahan’s Auto Body”… and we don’t correct them.
Let’s get back to the auto body shop….. Somewhere around 1970, the body shop outgrew the back corner of the dealership on South Street, so we moved across the Mill River to Texas Road. In 1974, we saw an opportunity in Rust Trucking’s building at 32 Damon Road. We pulled up our roots again and opened up shop at the massive location that we have today. In the early ’90s, we added the right-hand portion of our building; including a parts department, dedicated reconditioning bay, expanded offices and a comfortable customer waiting area. In 1998, Mike Helems and Paul Koplow (two longtime Cahillane employees) bought the Body Shop from the Cahillane family and continue to run this Northampton landmark with the same integrity and family-feel of Jim’s early endeavors.
Incidentally, we had a great time walking around the shop, asking “when did you start working here?” Production halted and funny faces were made as the “old-timers” started to reminisce. After much deliberation, here’s our current roll call:
Karl Clark, Lead Painter / Shop Foreman / “Honey Badger” – here since September 3rd, 1980
Paul Koplow, Owner – here since 1989
Eric Gougeon, Body Technician – here since 1989
Ralph Driver, Body Technician – here ’89-’91 & since 2013
George Vight, Facilities – here since 1989
Shawn Bigelow, Body Technician – here since 1990
Paul Champagne, Sr, Painter – here since 1995
Jessie Sickler, Manager / Customer Service – here since December, 2005
Dana Collins, “Wizard” / State Inspector – here since August, 2011
Felix DeJesus, Painter – here since November, 2011
Steve Amlaw, Mechanic / State Inspector / Tow Driver – here since January, 2015
Darren Taylor, Prepper / Painter – here since July, 2015
Amanda St. Laurence, Customer Service / Administrative – here since September, 2015
Rob Griffith, Tow Dept. Manager – here since November, 2015
Charlie Rytuba, Body Technician / Appraiser – here since November, 2015
Alex Petith, Paintless Dent Removal / Body Technician – here since March, 2016
Cody Clarke, Mechanical & Body Technician – here since March, 2016
Sam Sullivan, Customer Service / Administrative – here since October, 2016