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Catonsville woman hosts grand opening on Feb. 8 of sixth auto repair shop

By Julie Baughman, jbaughman@tribune.com

2:20 PM EST, February 6, 2013

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For Kim Parson, her latest business endeavor is about more than just business. It's about coming home.

Parson, who owns five auto collision repair shops in Maryland, will host the grand opening of her sixth shop in her home town of Catonsville Friday, Feb. 8.

"This is amazing," she said. "One thing, it means is that all my friends who crash their cars don't have to go nearly as far to get them fixed. I have friends and neighbors that were so excited, you would think that they want to crash their car just to bring it to me here in Catonsville."

Parson started Automotive Collision Technologies 18 years ago in Randallstown with a family member. The two eventually parted business ways and Parson has since added shops in Westminster, Glen Burnie, Hunt Valley and, as of only six months ago, Annapolis.

"What I ended up doing, was listening to the needs of the insurance companies and to the needs of employees and typically have got a long list of people who need jobs. And so I thought, as I thought when I opened up the first body shop, that I could help people," Parson said.

Like her other five, her Catonsville shop on Bloomingdale Avenue doesn't do routine maintenance such as oil changes or tire rotations. The focus is specifically on repairs for damage that could be caused by a collision.

"(I) didn't know the difference between a hood and a trunk," Parson said of starting out. "But I taught myself, because I thought, you know, if I am going to be in this business, I need to know a car from the front to the back."

Since then, Parson has been I-CAR platinum trained and certified as well as refinish-certified by AkzoNobel, one of the industry's largest coatings companies. I-CAR, or Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, is a not-for-profit training organization that "develops and delivers technical training programs to professionals in all areas of the collision industry," according to its website.

All the work that went into her certifications has paid off. Parson was named "one of the most influential women" in her industry by AkzoNobel in 2012 and is the only female multi-shop owner in the collision industry in Maryland.

As a successful woman in an industry traditionally dominated by men, Parson said her ability to multi-task and her maternal instincts honed by raising two sons with her husband, Steven, have helped her get where she is today.

"One of the great things is that, as women, we are so multi-talented. We can multitask," Parson said. "So to open up another facility, I can't let go of the guard that I and the managers have on the other shops. I can't let anything suffer because we're opening another facility. So it is really exciting."

She said that with all of her certifications, she is able to provide the highest standard of repair and service to her customers and, she prides herself in having all her employees as A-techs, the highest rating for a technician in the industry.

"Their reputation typically precedes them. When we're looking at a new position, we check references in this industry," Parson said.

"You have to have a great group of employees and managers that have your back," Parson said. "They're fixing cars for the right reason. They're managing people for the right reason."

Though she has spent years building her business shop by shop, Parson is thrilled to be back in Catonsville near friends and family.

"You strengthen the community by giving more people jobs in their home town," Parson said of opening her new shop. "That's the greatest feeling."

Teal Cary, executive director of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, is also glad to have a new business opening in town.

"She lives in Catonsville and wants to be here and open yet another business in her hometown and help us just make Catonsville great, which is terrific," Cary said.

"She could have gone anywhere with the success that she has," Cary said. "I'm just very happy that she picked Catonsville."

Though the Catonsville location is her second grand opening in just six months, Parson takes great pride in each new store.

"It is exciting because having another shop is almost like having another baby. You do lose a lot of sleep. There is a lot of sweat equity that goes into these, just like having a baby. So you hope that the pain is worth it," she said.

"It has been great. I never saw myself 18 years ago doing this," Parson said.

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Catonsville shop is Friday at 3 p.m.