Nick Papanicolas is building his life, family, and career right here in Fauquier County, where his roots are.
Photos by Kara Thorpe
Family is important at BoggsBody, the auto body restoration shop on Fifth Street in Old Town Warrenton. In fact, it’s paramount, it’s everything. On the day I interviewed Fauquier County native Nick Papanicolas, he was bursting with pride from the birth of his and his wife Samantha’s first daughter, Annalise, just a few days before. Nick’s life is right on schedule. He said, “We’re hitting some milestones here, we bought our first home, in Linden, last year, and we had a baby this year.” Of his daughter’s arrival, he said, “It was awesome. I’m still kind of buzzing from it. I would be at home now, but unfortunately we are pretty busy here. But our customers have been really understanding.”
Another thing that’s right on schedule is his career. After almost a decade at BoggsBody and learning from the ground up, he became a 49 percent owner about a year ago. Again, family played an important role in this life development. Although they are not technically related, owner and founder James Boggs and Nick consider themselves close family. “He was engaged to my mother, they met when I was about 15 years old. He’s like a father to me,” said Nick. James is more direct in describing his relationship with Nick. He said, “It’s a family thing. To me, even though his mom and I were engaged, we were not married, that still doesn’t matter to me, he’s still my boy, I’ve had him for a long time. It’s just the way I was raised. My family took in welfare children when I was growing up, so I have a lot of brothers and sisters through that.” To James, family doesn’t always mean blood, it’s about love. So that is what’s behind his decision to leave the business to Nick when he retires. “Nick’s my stepson, I decided I’m going to give him everything, this business is going to be his and his wife’s and my new granddaughter’s someday. That will be really neat. I thought he might as well take it on and learn,” he explained his decision to bring Nick into an ownership position.
James, also a Fauquier County native and Fauquier High School graduate, started BoggsBody in July of 2011 with $1,600 in his pocket. His background in cars and auto body work came from a childhood spent with his brothers in garages, studying at the auto program at Fauquier High School, and gaining experience at various auto shops and body shops in Warrenton over the years. His last position before striking out on his own was at Warrenton Auto where, he said, “I met a couple older guys who really knew what they were doing, and they taught me a lot.” Then he went out on his own, renting the small shop in Old Town Warrenton and building the business from the ground up, with Nick at his side.
“We’re just a small family run business, trucking along in the little town we grew up in. It’s really neat.”
Nick’s been involved in Boggsbody, as he said, “from day one.” Not having a lot of auto experience, he started by just helping out around the shop, doing office work, and learning the trade. “I came in knowing how to wash a car and send emails,” he explained. James is very old-school, and Nick’s abilities in technology, business, creating their image, and managing their social media have served them well. “At the start, I managed everything that had to do with the business other than touching the cars,” Nick explained. “I had helped James do some jobs before that, small jobs, like small teardowns, taking a door panel off, things like that. But everything about the cars I’ve learned I learned from James on the job, from body work to paint to fabrication to welding. So now, after all these years, I know how to do both sides of the business.” James agreed: “It’s a good partnership. I don’t have the patience for office stuff. He works really hard, and without him I don’t think we’d be where we are right now. As far as the business aspect, all that, that’s all Nick. He’s got a lot to be proud of and I’m very proud of him.”
BoggsBody can take care of all restoration work on vehicles, but they’re not the cheapest place out there for paint or body work. The quality of their work sets them apart and puts their labor at a higher price point. “A lot of folks come to us and the reason they’re seeking us out rather than AAMCO or MAACO, one of these other larger companies who do the quick spray jobs, you know, the $399 special, it’s because we don’t tape stuff up, we’re going to take our time, take everything apart, do the body work from the ground up, go over every inch with a fine tooth comb, and get the job done right,” Nick explained. Restorations that the shop has done in the past are clearly documented on their website. He continued, “Transparency is important to us, we want people to see the process of the work we’ve done, so they get an idea of the quality work we do, step by step.”
And sometimes it takes some time. Cars can be at BoggsBody for up to eight months, because it’s such a small shop, and they’re very busy. And they’re hiring, but they are picky. “We’re looking for passionate people, not just people who want to come in and collect a paycheck. We want guys that appreciate and take pride in their work, their craftsmanship. Anyone can come in and sand a fender, but you gotta care about what you do, and that will reflect in your work. If they don’t care, we can’t have that. Then they won’t work out to my expectations.”
As a result of these extremely high standards, BoggsBody is starting to get some really high-end clients. Some of their cars are going to car shows and winning. People are starting to sit up and take notice, just by seeing their work in person. “One of our new customers, Mike, a great guy, saw one of our paint jobs, stopped in the middle of the road, turned around, came back, and said, ‘I want you to do that to my car.’ It was a 1969 Mach One Mustang that was at Sema in 2011. That’s the Superbowl of car shows, held in Las Vegas every year. That’s probably a $125,000 car. It was really badass, it was awesome. It had a few imperfections, and some wear and tear from over the years, and he had us take that on to breathe new life into it. And we painted the entire car for him. When Mike picked up the Mach One, he left us a Barracuda to restore. I really think a few years from now we’ll look back on that as a turning point, because he’s pretty deep into the car world, like out at the Dulles Expo Center. A lot of his connections, they’ve caught wind of the Mach One and the work we did. He connected me to other people in the business, and I was introduced to D’Angelo Hall, so I got a chance to rub elbows and talk cars with D’Angelo Hall.”
But it’s not all about high end competition and fancy cars and winning contests. Sometimes, customers are trusting BoggsBody with their memories. “Some customers, they’re bringing us their babies that they’ve had since they were a teenager, and now when they’re older, they’re wanting to relive those days and restore the car. It’s their baby, I’m just here to help make their dreams come true,” said Nick.
But it’s their community of customers that is the backbone of their business, and that’s always at the forefront of their minds. James said, “I’ve always told him, it’s not just the cars, it’s the people we deal with. We have awesome customers, better than anyone could ever imagine or want. We’ve really been blessed. We’ve built relationships, and still see old customers. I tell them to come by anytime — I say, ‘You don’t have to wreck your car to come by and say hey.’” When I asked him what community meant to him, he had a ready answer. “It means life, prosperity, friendship, loyalty, trust. If you go out and help folks, that shows them what kind of person you are. Be honest, be trustworthy, and always keep your word; that means everything. The old ways of loyalty, honesty, hard work, and quality craftsmanship aren’t dead yet. I think that’s what a lot of people are yearning for.”
Nick has taken all this to heart, and loves where his life is headed. “When I grew up we didn’t have a lot of money, my mom was a single mom and we had a lot of hardships. After high school I went to Lord Fairfax Community College for a while, kind of feeling out whether college was right for me. I worked a lot of different jobs, handyman, restaurants. I guess I just had a certain amount of growing up to do. This business has definitely been a way for me to better my life. to essentially rise up from where I was growing up and after school. It’s been good, and it’s definitely getting better too.” The future? Not one to desert the small town where he grew up, Nick’s family’s plans have always included Fauquier County. “I like being in Fauquier County because it’s where I’m from. I like doing business in Warrenton because this is where my people are. I’ve got history here. And now I walk down the street and I see cars that I’ve worked on. I enjoy the folks that admire our work and greet us with kind words. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got a 30 year mortgage on my house, so I don’t think I’m going to be rolling out of here any time soon.”