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Maaco in Tupelo recognized as 'Rookie of the Year' store

When Tony Knight sold his Meineke Car Care Center franchise in 2018, he was looking forward to a life of retirement.

After working 12 years in sales, finance and management at Frankie Blackmon auto dealership, Knight opened his first store in 2004. He later opened four more stores in the Memphis area.

But retired life wasn't for Knight, so he and business partner Kenneth Greer opened a Maaco Auto Body Shop & Painting franchise in west Tupelo in February of last year.

"I was a little OCD and wanted to work; I needed to be doing something," Knight said.

Knight and Greer worked with Maaco to find the right spot to open the store. Coley Road was the ultimate choice. V.M. Cleveland, who owns the land where the shop is located, built the building and leases it back to the pair.

"We like this spot because of the traffic," Knight said. "You've got the high school, and this is now the main area to get to the mall and there are a lot of rooftops on this side of town."

Knight said that Maaco is a body shop, but much of its work is concentrated on auto painting.

"You bring your car up here, it's faded, you don't want to buy a new one, and we paint it," he said. "You can't get anybody else in town to want to paint it, here, Oxford or Starkville.

"Most body shops don't want to paint — they want to do the collision work. But we can do the painting better and cheaper. We've got better quality paint, and we've got 1,000 stores across the country so we can get the paint cheaper, too."

That message seems to be resonating, as the business has markedly increased at the Maaco Tupelo store. The number of employees has grown from seven to 11, and Knight said he could use another.

That level of business, plus a superior customer satisfaction rating, helped the store earn "Rookie of the Year" honors.

The store was one of the 63 new centers that opened in 2020 nationwide, and the Tupelo store had both the highest sales of those stores and the highest customer satisfaction scores.

"We beat out areas like Reno, Atlanta, Jacksonville," Knight said.

Dale Rushing, the store's general manager, said the award is a testament to the hard work put in by its employees.

"It shows you can take folks who are willing to hustle and get with it and be a part of a good company, which is a really good combination," he said.

The Tupelo Maaco, located at 995 Coley Road, is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday by appointment.