A dog barking in the front office might not be tolerated by most businesses, but after 50 years in East Dallas, John Woodard & Associates Auto Repair Center isn’t worried about being different.

The company repairs crumpled and cranky motor vehicles, but it recently became an unofficial animal shelter when the staff rehabilitated an injured dog shoved out of a car on a busy freeway.

People might be tempted to label John O. Woodard Jr. and the six relatives who are his business associates “soft touches,” and they would be partly correct. The three generations who manage the sprawling complex at 3515 Ross prefer to call their willingness to help others “good business.”

“My daddy always said, ‘What goes around comes around,’” says Woodard Jr., company president.

John O. Woodard Sr., family patriarch and co-founder of the family business, died in February 1996 at age 93. He remained involved in the business long past the traditional retirement age, and his influence continues to be felt.

The business opened in 1946 on the 3900 block of Ross after Woodard Jr. completed his service in the U.S. Marines. Woodard Sr., who previously owned a service station and rebuilt cars, invited his son to join him in starting something new. They had $600 and each other, Woodard Jr. recalls, and the shop was just a few blocks from home.

In the beginning, their specialty was antique Model T Fords. The Model T, introduced in 1908, held a special place in Woodard Sr.’s heart because it was one of the first cars he remembered from his youth. Woodard Sr., who grew up on an Ellis County farm, was fascinated by automobiles from the time he was old enough to run to the fence to watch them drive by.

The Woodards’ business expanded as the automobile industry grew. Within five years of opening, the business moved to a larger location at 1516 Hall, where it remained until 1975, when the Bryan Place housing development bought the property. Its home has been 3515 Ross since then.

Today, the Woodard business is involved in nearly every aspect of auto repair and maintenance. Many customers are businesses or government agencies with fleets that require regular attention. Many other customers are individuals who live or work in our neighborhood or Downtown.

Because the Woodards’ lives and livelihoods are so entwined with East Dallas, they frequently become involved with community activities. During the early years of the business, Woodard Sr. indulged his love of sports by sponsoring basketball and softball teams.

More recently, Woodard Jr. chaired a committee of the Northeast Dallas Business Association that raised approximately $33,000 to help fund a Dallas Police storefront on Hall Street near the Roseland Homes public housing project. The storefront, which opened in 1993, houses two police officers, a caseworker and a crime prevention specialist.

“John devoted a lot of his personal time overseeing what was being done,” says Sgt. Jimmy Little, former supervisor of the storefront. “He’s one of those get-things-done-type persons.”

After the building was in place, Woodard Jr. dipped into his own funds to help provide furnishings and a large sign in the shape of a police badge, Little recalls.

Having so many family members involved in the business helps provide continuity when Woodard Jr. or one of the others wants to work on special projects.

“It’s a real joy to be able to have a business that you can leave to your relatives and know they’re going to take care of it,” Woodard Jr. says.

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