Former pro basketball player overcomes challenges to build collision repair biz
By Peg DeGrassa / Delaware County Daily Times
UPPER DARBY, Pennsylvania — Eighty to 100 vehicles, from all over the tri-state area, go through Modern Auto Crafters, 7027 West Chester Pike, in a typical week.
One of the largest shops of its kind on the East Coast, Modern Auto Crafters offers body work, painting and collision work, as well as standard repairs.
Vehicles often arrive in the worst condition, but when they leave their satisfied owners are usually driving out with smiles on their faces.
“Our mission is to provide our clients with the most convenient and best quality work and service possible,” owner Pete Kathopoulis said. “Our customers show their appreciation by not only coming back repeatedly, but by referring us to their family and friends. This is how our business has grown from a small shop that my grandfather started into what we are today. We give our customers a lifetime warranty on all our repairs.”
Whether a customer owns an import, a domestic, or a high performance exotic car, Modern Auto Crafters will handle all collision repairs. According to Kathopoulis, highly skilled technicians take pride in keeping a vehicle in top condition by using the latest diagnostic technology, as well as state-of-the-art frame machines, paint booths and tools, to provide high-quality work and service and quick turnaround.
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Kathopoulis is a third-generation business owner. His grandfather Pete, who immigrated from Greece, worked at Spina and Adams auto repair before opening D&K Auto on Montgomery Avenue in Upper Darby in 1980 with Danny, Pete’s father. Later Danny took over the business and moved it to Long Lane in Upper Darby, renaming the auto repair shop, “Modern Auto Crafters.” After Pete took over the business because of unforeseen circumstances, the business outgrew the location and it moved to Mill Street in Darby. In 2014, to increase space to keep up with more rapid growth, the business moved back to Upper Darby Township into its present home on West Chester Pike.
Pete grew up in Upper Darby, attending St. Alice elementary school, Beverly Hills Middle School, and then The Haverford School. While at Saint Joseph University playing Division One Basketball, he was recruited to play professional basketball overseas for Iraklis, one of the biggest teams in Thessalonki, the second largest city in Greece. In his third year on the team, he was preparing to sign on to play for a team in Athens when he got the call from his mom Kalliopi (“Kelly”) that his beloved father was sick. He packed up and went home. In 2010 when his father died, Kathopoulis jumped head-first into running the family business.
“I never looked back,” the former pro ball player said. “I wanted to make Modern Auto Crafters a successful business for my family. I am forever grateful for the opportunities and the education that my parents sacrificed to give me. When I first came into the business, the Greek community kept feeding me work out of respect for my dad, but then it was quality craftsmanship and a growing customer base that made the business grow even more.”
Kathopoulis said it’s his competitive nature that made him excel in basketball and in business.
“I just love challenges,” he smiled. “Although I enjoy competition and always want to be the biggest and the best, we never step on our competitors. We respect them as colleagues. There are a lot of cars out there so there’s plenty of work to go around for all of us.”
Modern Auto Crafters can pick up and drop off vehicles for customers and has an ongoing relationship with both Hertz and Enterprise for car rentals during the work period.
Kathopoulis said that he’s very blessed to stay busy because he realizes his responsibility to keep Modern Auto Crafters’ large staff working since they all have families like him. Mom Kelly, of Springfield, whom Pete calls “the rock of the family,” works in the front office. Both mom and son said the staff at Modern Auto Crafters is like one big family, caring about one another and their customers.
“I am very grateful to our customers for their continual trust in our service. They made us what we are now, and I’m grateful to the Upper Darby community and the Upper Darby Police Department,” the business owner said. “The township welcomed us and embraced our business.”
When he moved the business to West Chester Pike, he purchased adjoining properties so that the business now has the capacity to hold 50 cars inside and 400 outside, with an eye toward future expansion. The 25,000 square-foot building has modern office space and plenty of space to work on the two-and-one-half acre property. Modern Auto Crafters has the most modern equipment and the highest skilled workers, each one with years of experience.
Kathopoulis said his father taught him the importance of business integrity, being honest and trustworthy and always putting customers first.
“Our customers are my boss,” the business owner said, his face turning serious. “Even if it costs us more, we never take shortcuts. My family has always believed in treating every customer and every vehicle with respect because people are trusting you with their personal belongings.”
Kathopoulis, who lives in Media with his wife Fotini and 2-year-old twin daughters, stays involved in the community. He is a member and past secretary of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) and a member of St. Luke’s Church in Broomall. His only sibling, Paulina, is an attorney.
“My parents sacrificed a lot for us, to give us the best,” Pete said. “If I failed in business, I felt like I’d fail my parents so I started off wanting to do this for my parents, but then it became way, way more than that. I never thought of money. It was the product that was huge and quality was always a big deal. I was born with a hunger for greatness, the willingness to work hard and a determination to succeed. Customers will find that we are redefining the automotive collision repair industry. I guarantee that anyone who brings their vehicle to us will be pleased with the job done and like the unmatched service that they’ll find here.”