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Debbie and Jimmy Thompson took over Charlie’s Paint and Body from her grandmother, Betty Croft, 19 year ago. They say their customers are very important to their business.

925 Martha Jean Dr.

Belen, N.M., 87002


Owner: Debbie Thompson

Type of business: Paint and auto body shop

How long in operation: 51 years

1. What are some of the unexpected lessons you’ve learned being in business?

“When I took over this business from my grandmother 19 years ago, I never anticipated the amount of time that would go into owning a business; assuming the responsibility of human resources, office manager, parts manager, accountant, etc. Being a small business owner means wearing many hats.

“I also would have never anticipated the impact that the technology world would have on repairing a vehicle. We are always learning and finding innovative ways to stay relevant and also up to speed with the newest vehicles advancements.”

2. What advice do you have for someone starting a business?

“Find good people to be part of your team. Be proud of your work. Make sure the business you’re starting is something you love to do.”

3. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your line of work?

“My customers! My family has been in this business for 51 years and has repaired generations of families’ vehicles. I love the close relationships I have made within the community by being so involved with the process beginning to end. Also, my employees. I could not do this without them!”

4. Who do you admire most in your industry and why?

“Two people I admire the most — one was my grandmother, Betty Croft. She was an original owner of the business. She worked in a male-dominated field and thrived. She made the Top 25 Business Woman in New Mexico and nothing stood in her way.

“The other is Mark Salazar, who works here at Charlie’s. He started as a detailer and worked his way up to head painter. He can match any color, and paint anything from cars to cement mixers to Belen eagle football helmets.”

5. What is it about Valencia County that keeps you doing business here?

“ I grew up here. This is my home. What better place to have a business? Also, the great customers of Valencia County.”

6. How have you been able to attract and maintain customers or clients?

“Word of mouth and supporting local is key in small towns. Myself, my family and my employees continuously help within the community by supporting local school fundraisers, youth rodeo, 4-H and FFA to name a few. I am a strong believer that if you take care of your community, they will take care of you.”

7. What do you do on a daily basis to make your business better?

“I strive to ensure that our customers are 100 percent satisfied with the finished product. Customer service/satisfaction is very important to me and I hope my customers see that and share their experience with family and friends.”

8. Where do you see your business in the future?

“As for the future of the vehicle industry, I see cars that drive themselves, maybe even small aircraft as everyday commuters.

“Here at Charlie’s, we talk about what the future of auto repair will look like in 20 years. It’s always interesting conversation. As for the future of Charlie’s Paint & Body, I hope to see us providing quality work for the great customers of Valencia County for many years to come!”

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