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Kevin Hewitt prepares to paint a 1960s-era Jaguar in his Court Street shop. - Bob Pennell

Home Grown: Hewitt's Motorsports

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? I work on high-horsepower custom cars, do general auto repairs and sell after-market auto accessories and tires. We also do auto-body repair and sell foreign and domestic used cars. I have had Hewitt's Motorsports since 2000.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? 48 years, I went to Medford Senior High School.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? When I was 18 years old, cars interested me. They've evolved to where they are a machine and no longer a simple automobile. I like speed and adrenalin rushes, so I will race anything.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? Prior to 1998, I was just in the towing and auto-body business. I would've branched out long ago, and not just kept the auto-body work so long. There was more competition in the auto-body business when I was younger. Back then I had to be on top of the wheel in that one particular business, and insurance companies really dictated exactly what's going on. There are more people in the valley now, and I've noticed people don't expect as much today as they did 20 years ago. They drop the car off, say they need it back as quick as possible and don't care.

Nowadays you can't have eggs all in one basket, it's too diversified. You can't just be in just one area. In today's market, in order to make it I've had to diversify. Every single day I hope I'm going down the right track and hoping not to have to double back. You've got to make every move count.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? Staying open in these tough times. From 1998 to 2000, I sold out the body shop and went to work for a large corporation and found out quickly that's why I needed to make it on my own. After being in business so long — from 1981 to 1998 — I got frustrated because we were so regulated. You were fighting to keep employees. Technicians were very scarce, and right then it was so competitive a lot of the technicians felt they needed to go to larger shops where there were benefits and where they felt there was a lot of work. It's a very select few who can actually do auto-body repair. You are not sure what you are repairing from day to day. Technology is changing so fast that there isn't enough training. You learn the basics in school and then teach yourself.

Who are your competitors? Pro Service in Medford, Ken Scales and Bob Thomas are all people I would do business with.

What are your goals? I would like to start an auto-body repair technical school. We need an automotive work force in the Rogue Valley, there is just a shortage of qualified technicians.

What training or education did you need? I went to Lane Community College and got a degree in auto-body repair. There was a lot of hands-on experience after that. I started the repair business at my parents' house in 1980. When the tow trucks started dropping cars off at my parents' house on the east side, my dad told me it was time for me to get out.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Work with your competitors, learn from them and be willing to work 24/7. If you can't do that, don't try to be self-employed, especially in these times.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.

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