Thursday, February 3, 2011

Murray Haupt of Capitol Automotive

Murray Haupt

Murray Haupt of Hillcrest is an interesting guy. He's the owner of Capitol Automotive and several other business ventures. He's chairman of the board of an alcohol and drug rehab center in Heber Springs and sits on the board of another non-profit in Little Rock. Many women would envy his wife, SuAnn, because he calls her the most beautiful woman in the world. His favorite movie is a romantic comedy, and his favorite thing to watch on the tube is UFC cage fighting. He rides a motorcycle and likes to get his hands dirty doing a challenging auto repair job. He played in a rock and roll band at The Cavern in Liverpool when he was a teenager. More than 50 shows. Oh, and did I mention that he owns a fire truck?

Capitol Automotive Inc., 817 South Izard Street (on the corner of 9th Street and Izard), is a full-service mechanical repair and auto body collision shop. It is the culmination of Mr. Haupt's life-long fascination with cars.

"I've been a mechanic my whole life. I'm a car freak," Murray said.

"The first car my parents gave me, I took the motor out."

His parents, Bill and Jackie Haupt, had given their son an MG 1000 sedan only to return home one day and find the motor in pieces strewn around their carport.

"My mother came home, and she liked to have had a heart attack. That was the first time I did it too. (Took apart a motor.) There was nothing wrong with it. I just took it out to see how it worked."

His mom bet his father that Murray would never get the motor back together. She lost the bet.

"I'm mechanically inclined; it just comes natural to me."

Murray with shop dog, Bandit

Capitol Automotive has been in its current location for more than three years. Before that, it was called Little Rock Automotive Center, but Murray changed the name to reflect the fact that the business was so close to the State Capitol. In addition to mechanical and auto body repair, a subsidiary of Capitol Automotive is Little Rock Auto Sales, a licensed dealer in pre-owned vehicles.

"Quite honestly, I think we are probably the best kept secret in Little Rock," Murray said.

"In my business, people are pretty naive, and there are a lot of people who are taken advantage of. I try to be fair in our pricing. I offer basically an unlimited warranty. My customers, if something goes wrong, I take care of it. I don't charge a diagnostic fee. My existence in Little Rock all these years has been based on our business practices."

"I think if a person spends money with you, you are basically married. You owe them as much as they owe you."With restored 1968 Mustang Coupe 289

James Swindoll, a Little Rock attorney, said he'd been taking his cars to Murray for about 15 years.

"I get excellent service. Murray has kept all of my cars running for all of my family for all these years, and I have four kids. Murray helped me get cars for everyone of them," Mr. Swindoll said.

"He's a quality guy. I started out a kind of poor, but honest lawyer, and he's always been fair with me. We've had major and minor repairs. He's really a nice guy. If you need to know something about a car, call Murray. He can fix it for you or find it for you."

Mike Rebick of Little Rock, general manager of a copy machine business, also called the 10 or so years of service he's gotten at Capitol Automotive "excellent."

"He's fixed a lot of difficult to diagnose problems and has done body work on collisions," Mr. Rebick said. "He pretty much tries to get things out in a timely fashion. Stuff doesn't sit over there like some other places."

The 8,000-square-foot repair area of Capitol Automotive includes a state-of-the-art paint booth, as well as in-house paint mixing and tinting equipment.

"We do complete auto repair and service on any make or model. We've got the equipment to do 99% of the cars out there. Be fair, and do a good job. That's our business philosophy," Murray said.

"My business is 85% word-of-mouth."

He has several customers who have been with him for more than 20 years. He remembers the name of his very first customer, Carol Kennedy, who remains a customer to this day.

Another of his customers, Diane McKim of North Little Rock, neatly sums up what many others say: "He's just honest and dependable and will bend over backwards to accommodate customers."

Mrs. McKim said she's known Murray for about 10 years, during which time he's done a number of minor repairs, major body work, and sold autos to her family.

"He's always a very reasonable price and very quick. I've gotten same-day service; if it's within his power, he will. Plus, I bought a vehicle from him for my daughter. She probably put 150,000 miles on that car, and it was still running when she totaled it. About last week, she and her finance bought another car from him. And they love, love, love it. He checks them (the vehicles) out and knows what he's selling.

"Murray has helped me out many times."

Murray is a busy fellow. In addition to Capitol Automotive, he is a co-partner of K & M Capital, which owns and leases commercial real estate. He is also chairman of the board for the Sugarloaf Center in Heber Springs, Arkansas, a state-licensed alcohol and drug treatment center. And he sits on the board of the non-profit Firehouse Hostel & Museum. (Google This Is Arkansas to read more about this interesting group, or visit

Murray said the Sugarloaf Center is one of the premier treatment facilities in Arkansas and has been used as a model for other rehab centers in the state.

"My director up there, Kelly Shelton, the state has her do talks with other facilities to teach them the right way to do it, and she talks with schools to raise drug awareness and tell about the options there are in Arkansas as far as treatment and rehabilitation."

Before coming to Arkansas, Murray worked as a sales rep for a large California company that imports and distributes carburetors. Then he opened an auto repair shop there in 1984.

"In 1987, my parents, I thought at that point, were getting elderly. So I moved my family back to Arkansas. I thought my parents were getting elderly, but mother passed away last July, and father is 90 and going strong. He's still driving and lives by himself. So I probably didn't need to move back quite that quick, but I'm glad I did."

Murray has several employees at Capitol Automotive, but he's hands-on at the shop. "I still like to get dirty if it's something I like to do. I like to get in there and make things run."

He also likes to buy and resell autos. And he sells motor cycles, trailers and RVs.

"I sell just about anything that rolls. I have my very own fire truck, a 1974 Howe, for which my wife almost divorced me. She thought I'd lost my mind completely."

And what possessed him to buy a fire truck?

"I looked in the paper on Sunday. I drove to Bradford, Arkansas, gave the man the money, and drove it home."

Eventually, he said, the fire truck will probably end up at the Firehouse Hostel & Museum.

Owning a fire truck is only one unique page in Murray's life. When he was a sophomore in high school, his family moved to Southport, England, and he ended up performing at The Cavern Club.

"I used to play in a rock and roll band called 'In Transit,' and we used to play on a regular basis at The Cavern where the Beatles were discovered."

The Liverpool club is where Brian Epstein first saw the Beatles performing; the group's musical exploits there made the club famous during the 1960s.

"I played in The Cavern probably 50 times. I've met a lot of rock stars in my life."

Isn't it fun getting to know the folks in our community - like Murray - who build things, repair stuff, and keep us functioning tip top; who are not afraid of getting their hands dirty; and who take the time to get involved and to help others?

To get in touch with Murray, call 370-5099; or his lovely wife, SuAnn, owner of Simply Seafood, at 519-7515.

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and first appeared in the February 2011 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Profile: Getting to know Murray Haupt

Murray Haupt

Tell us about your family. I am one of five children. I have three sisters and one brother. I am the luckiest man in the world, because I have the most beautiful wife in the world, SuAnn. I have two sons, Will and Shane. I have a charming stepson named Nick and a stepdaughter named Erin.

Where do you live? On Ridgeway in Hillcrest.

Where were you born? Tulsa, Oklahoma.

What's your favorite Little Rock restaurant? So.

What do you like to do in your spare time? We like to camp. We love to go to the lake. We just bought a house on top of Petit Jean mountain. We go to Heber, and to Ouachita both. We're big outdoors people. We love the outdoors. I love to ride my motorcycle.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? I'd love to learn how to fly an airplane, but I'm scared to death. Pretty much anything else I want to do, I do. Perhaps skydiving. Perhaps in tandem with my wife. Honey, would you go skydiving with me? (SuAnn from the other room: Absolutely not.)

What's your favorite movie? Pretty Woman.

Do you have favorite actors? Sam Elliott and Julia Roberts.

What do you watch on the tube? I love UFC cage fighting. It's mixed martial arts. I mean these guys try to kill each other. It is very popular, as popular as boxing. I watch Barrett-Jackson Auto Auctions and Mecum Auctions; it's called "muscle cars and more." I watch the usual - Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters. I watch a lot of TV. I love Nascar.

If you could have a dream dinner party, who would you invite? I would ask George Washington ... Douglas MacArthur, Madame Curie, and Howard Hughes.

What kind of music do you like? I'm a huge blues fan. I like country too, and real rock and roll - old school rock and roll.

What is your favorite food? I like fish. That's a revelation that's come only in the past few years. I like tuna, talipia, and since my wife owns a seafood company, it's pretty easy to go over and steal a tuna steak out of the freezer. Seafood. I like shrimp and crab too. (SuAnn is owner of Simply Seafood.)

Is there anything you'd like to change about yourself? My intensity. I think I'm a little too intense about a lot of things. I'm very opinionated. I'm intense about work and work ethic. I would like to be a little bit calmer person, a little bit laid back ... . I've got too many things going on.