Longtime Danvers, MA, business Hartnett Auto Body & Car Wash closed its doors April 4 after almost 70 years in the community.
The Hartnett family, which owns the auto shop on 15 Water St., recently sold the business to another family who owns multiple car washes and gas stations in the area.
Alan Hartnett, the oldest of the five Hartnett brothers, said he wanted to retire and initially asked his siblings if they wanted to buy him out. Alan, who is 68 years old, hired a lawyer to begin the paperwork for a potential buyout last November. However, after the brothers could not agree to a buyout deal, the family decided to sell the longtime Danvers auto shop.
“We couldn’t work that part of the deal out so we had to put the entire place on the market,” Alan explained. “It’s not an easy process. We were trying to entertain offers from people in this industry.”
Alan said the new owners of the shop reached out to them and gave them an offer they “couldn’t refuse.” The auto body shop has been a significant place in the community for a very long time, but Alan said selling the place at this point felt like the right time with the right group.
“The easiest exit strategy was to eventually sell to another family,” he said. “It’s in their blood, I guess, kind of the way it’s in our blood.”
Alan said it was important for the Hartnetts to sell the shop to a family who planned to continue at least part of the business.
“I’m happy that there is going to be another car wash here,” he said. “I think that washing cars still has a lot of potential.”
The Family Business
The Hartnett family business was started in Danvers in 1952 by Alan’s father. Then, in 1961, his father bought the current property in Danvers on 15 Water St. All of the Hartnett brothers started working at the business when they were children.
“My father would say, ‘Alright, Saturday morning, you’re working,’” Alan reflected. “As a kid, sometimes my job would be, ‘Give Mr. Smith a ride home,’ and then years later, you would see Mr. Smith’s kids come in to get their car fixed, and now we see Mr. Smith’s grandchildren come in here and having their car fixed, so it’s multi-generational.”
However, in 1985, their father passed away, and his six children (five sons and one daughter) each immediately became a part owner of the family business.
“Family business is a family business,” said Alan. “Everyone knows what I mean by that. There is no family that isn’t dysfunctional, especially when it comes to a business.”
A few years later, Alan’s sister won the lottery and no longer wanted to be a part owner. She sold her share to Alan and another brother, Eric. Eric and Alan each have 25 percent of the business, and the other three brothers split ownership equally of the remaining 50 percent.
Many of the brothers left the area and tried different things at some point in their lives. However, all five of them eventually came back to work at the auto shop in Danvers. The family has gone through ups and downs, but in the end, they stuck together.
“Working collectively since ’85 without my father giving the orders, it’s been a little different,” Alan said. “There have been some tempers and there have been some disagreements, but we survived.”
Love for the Community
Since 1952, the Hartnett family has provided reliable auto body repair services and car wash expertise to Danvers residents, and they have loved interacting with the members of the community.
“It’s always been in Danvers,” said Alan. “A lot of people would tell you that it was almost as if I was born and brought up here. You build those kinds of relationships, so that is what has kept us all going here.”
Although Alan lives in New Hampshire, Danvers has felt like his second home, and he and his brothers have developed a deep bond with a lot of people in town.
“This lady came in here the other day and almost cried,” Alan said. “She said, ‘I don’t know where the [heck] I’m going to go.’”
Alan said people will constantly recognize him in town because of his father.
“If you ask people around town, they probably all know me,” Alan said. “People will say, ‘Oh, did you know my grandfather? That’s why we came here.’ There was a situation we had last week, where I was fixing this young lady’s car. The mother and father live in town but I didn’t recognize their family name, but when I got talking to the mother who picked the car up for the daughter, she said, ‘Oh, you knew my dad.’”
When Alan reflects on the many years during which they had the business in Danvers, he will remember those positive interactions with the community.
“We have a wall here in the office that is peppered with plaques,” Alan explained. “Across the top, it says ‘We support the community that supports us,’ and I think that we have maintained that value. We have all been involved in something. Everyone has participated in giving back some of their time and energy. I think that we have been good to the community that has been very good to us.”