Modzelewski’s looks forward following death of founder
Life lessons he taught his children will ensure the future of the business he founded in 1971.
Mark Modzelewski, who died of a heart attack last month at age 67, owned Modzelewski’s Autobody Works and built the business from a two-bay garage in Danbury to a thriving auto body, towing and storage company with three locations in Danbury, New Milford and Newtown.
“He built it from nothing. He had a small garage and dream,” his son James Modzelewski said. “I’m taking over his legacy and keeping the dream alive.”
James Modzelewski, like his father a graduate of Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury, joined the business and expanded its towing and storage services in 2002. James, 34, will also take over the auto body side of the business and look to expand the business with a fourth location.
The work ethic and drive for growth comes from the example his father set, James said.
“He taught us that nothing comes for free — there’s no free lunch. Work hard and things will come to you. He worked nonstop,” James said, reflecting on the night his father died. “He worked that day. He brought coffee. He worked right up to the day he died. He loved his business and his family.”
Karin Modzelewski, Mark’s wife, remembers the early days of the business and receiving the service calls at all hours.
“I’d see a lot of sunrises and sunsets,” she said.
Modzelewski was active with the former Danbury Racearena and brought two tow trucks to the races every Saturday, Karin said. He expanded the business to New Milford in 1983.
Karin and Mark Modzelewski met a few years after Mark founded the business with his father. Karin helped with the books and still works at the business. James and his brother Richard worked at the shop as youngsters. The Modzelewskis also have two daughters: Kerri and Katie.
James remembers cleaning the floors and doing other odd jobs around the garage as a kid. When he was 8 years old, he moved a tow truck, his feet barely reaching the pedals, so snow plows could get out of the garage.
“He just kept wanting to push you to make you better,” James said. “He was always challenging me. He knew that I would find a way to figure it out and I did. He was always looking to raise the bar — make us reach the next level.”
Despite building a successful business and seeing his purple and white trucks all over the Danbury area, Karin said Mark Modzelewski retained a humble attitude and was never comfortable in a suit and tie. He enjoyed spending his downtime tending to his small farm in Brookfield and looking after his cows. Family and business, however, were his two main loves.
“He persevered and wanted to do this. He had a passion for his work,” she said. “He loved it more than anything.”
James added: “My father was the guy who woke up every day and wanted to put a smile on someone else’s face. He always wanted to do for others and never looked for anything in return. He was an active member of the community for so many years.”
The writer may be reached at email@example.com; 203-731-3338