Owner Don Hoag Joining Wife Rosie
In Retirement, Puts Body Shop On Market
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Forty-one years after Edward Kirn began teaching Don Hoag the auto-body repair business, the venerable Kirn’s Body Shop closed its doors for good on Friday, the owner-operator announced this afternoon.
Interviewed with his wife Rosemary, the founder’s daughter, by his side, Hoag gave three reasons:
- “The changing industry, and what it takes to fix a car.”
- “As you know, in this community, the help picture is really tight.”
- Those two reasons led to a third: He realized he needed to reinvent the business, and at 60½ he and Rosie concluded it’s time to let go.
That decision made sense, they said, particularly since he and Rosie lost their son, Justin, age 32, of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy on Sept. 27, 2016. There’s no one to carry on the business.
“I got to meet so many people in the community,” Hoag said. “It’s not like I’m saying I’m glad it’s over.”
For now, Eagle Towing of Cobleskill, which has an installation on Route 205, West Oneonta, will be handling Triple-A requests, he said.
Also, the business is for sale, and Hoag’s been receiving calls from interested parties.
The founding father, Ed Kirn, a farmer in the Town of Middlefield in his early years, began to learn the auto-body trade in the 1950s, working first for Al Welch at Tower Motors, where the Mirabito quick-stop is now, then for Ed Smith’s Ford dealership.
In 1960, he began working on cars at home, and in 1966 opened his first Kirn’s Body Shop next to Doubleday Field, where the batting cages are today.
In 1976, he shifted his operations to the lower floor at 21 Railroad Ave., where the Bassett Pain Clinic is today, and moved in 1978 to the current location, on Route 28 just south of the village line.
At that point in the interview, Bobby Kirn, one of the founder’s four children, called from Tennessee, where he lives in retirement, and reported the first car his father worked on in 1960 was a 1954 Mercury hardtop.
In the go-go ’60s, many kitchens were being redone in gold and other bright colors. “We painted a lot of refrigerators and stoves gold,” he remembered.
Bob also recalled the purchase of Kirn’s first wrecker, in 1967 or ’68, and the first call: A Trailways bus got stuck in the mud at the Lakefront Motel at the end of Fair Street, and Ed Kirn looped a chain around a nearby maple tree to unstick it.
The bus driver took out a check book. How much, he asked. Ed Kirn hadn’t gotten that far: $25, he said. And the driver pulled the wallet out of his pocket and paid in cash.
In recent years, Kirn’s wreckers have been staples at every major or minor accident around here. Few residents whose cars have been hit by deer or who wake up in the morning to a dead battery haven’t dealt with Kirn’s crews. Don said the company has been community-minded, doing work at no cost for the Cooperstown and Hartwick Seminary fire departments.
Hoag graduated from high school and in 1978 began working for Ed Kirn, where he met the owner’s daughter, Rosie; the two married, and he’s been with the business ever since. She retired last November after 40+ years at Bassett.
Ed Kirn fell and broke his hip in 2007, and when he died in 2011, Hoag had been running the business for four years. His father-in-law, Don remembers, would stop by the business almost every day until the end.
Ed Jr. and a sister, Joan Cauley, now both retired in Florida, sold their shares to Don and Rosemary, and Bob and Charlene Kirn. Bob and Charlene have since retired.
Don Hoag has been the face of Kirn’s for years. He and Rosie plan to stay in the area – you will continue to spot them Friday evenings at the Doubleday Café’s fish fry – and he will continue driving bus, as he has since 1981.
“The Kirn’s name has provided service since the 1960s,” he reflected. “That’s 60 years.”