By Natalie Bazinet
CARIBOU — Like any business that has 70 successful years under its belt, Beaulieu’s Garage and Body Shop keeps some of their nostalgic items for display, like the two signs that went on the shop’s first two buildings and like any business that’s been kept in the family for 70 years, those antiques are a part of family history.
Beaulieu’s Garage and Body Shop has been keeping Caribou’s cars and farm equipment running for 70 years. Shown above are three generations of the family owned business in this photo taken in the 80s, from left, third generation (and current co-owner) Jeff Robertson, business founder Peter Beaulieu and second generation owner Joe Robertson.
Looking closely at the antique signs hanging in their customer lounge and reception area, you can see some yellow flecks of paint on their borders only noticeable when you’re looking for it; those flecks were put on those two signs years ago, when current co-owner of Beaulieu’s, Jeff Robertson, was a freshman in high school and had picked up an odd job painting Grandpa’s garage. Reflecting on his first major painting endeavor years later Jeff chuckles as he recalls how his 14-year-old self had thought he’d done a good job. Now that much time’s passed, however he’ll tell you that it wasn’t the greatest paint job.
But painting of that caliber clearly wasn’t Jeff’s calling as the third-generation mechanic started working at his grandfather’s garage in the summer of 1981 alongside his father Joseph, and of course, his grandfather. In 1987, Jeff’s sister (and current co-owner) Janet (Schofield) joined the family business overseeing the bookkeeping, but make no mistake about it: born into a mechanically-minded family, Janet knows her way around an engine block quite well.
Grandfather Peter established the company in 1941 with a partner down on Water Street, but the business got off to a bumpy start; while Peter’s partner was working on a fuel tank, it ignited, burning the garage down. Peter moved to a new location on Sweden Street sans partner,
From Peter, Joseph purchased the business in 1983. He’d started working at the company part-time in 1955 while stationed at Loring — he fell in love with Peter’s oldest daughter, Judy, and the two were married in 1957 when Joseph got out of the service and worked full-time at the garage.
Joseph ran the company for seven years until unexpectedly passing away in 1990. After his death, the company was given to Jeff and Janet. Jeff had been working at the shop for nine years under first his grandfather and then his father and Janet had worked for three years under her father, but being given co-ownership of the family businesses left the two siblings with some tremendously large shoes to fill.
Jeff turned to his uncle Sam (who he calls Chuck) for his advice on how to run the family business.
“Chuck told me ‘just treat people honestly; you don’t have to be a crook to make money,’” Jeff remembered, and honesty has always come natural to him and his tight-knit Christian family, who all work at the garage as well. Jeff and Janet’s mother, Judy Robertson, stepped in after her husband’s passing to help run the business, working as a service writer for 19 years. Wendy Robertson, Jeff’s wife, has been with the business for two years and their two sons, Dan and Sam Robertson, both joined the business after completing their automotive schooling in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
While Jeff says that he’ll be supportive of his sons regardless of what they decide to do in life, he’s not too surprised that they’ve fallen into the family trade. “They’ve been going on wrecker calls with me since they were little,” he said.
The family works hard to keep the same values that first built Beaulieu’s working strong even 70 years later, and those were lessons taught to the siblings owners by generations of mechanics before them.
“Working under both [Peter] and [Joseph] was nice because they were both good men and were always good to their word,” Jeff remembered, but just because they worked for their family did not mean that family got special treatment. “They held you accountable for your work.”
Family’s a big part of what makes Beaulieu’s unique, but what makes the garage successful is their employees.
“Beaulieu’s Garage wouldn’t have been here all these years if it weren’t for all the people who’ve been here thoughout the years,” he said. “We’ve had some excellent mechanics and the work they’ve done has made people want to keep coming back to us — and that’s the bottom line.”