The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) is deeply saddened to announce that James Bryant, an unforgettable industry figure with a personality as big as his heart, passed away last week after a long illness.
A veteran of the New Jersey association scene, Jimmy was perhaps best known for his work with Bryant Associates, a collision industry consulting firm he operated with his brother (and current AASP/NJ Executive Director) Charles. After a long and colorful career in the Garden State, he spent the last several years of his life in Las Vegas.
“Jimmy Bryant was a lifelong advocate for the collision repair industry,” AASP/NJ President Jeff McDowell said from his shop in Fords, NJ. “As half of Bryant Associates, he went head to head with the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA) on our behalf many times. He was a real character who worked very hard to make our industry better, and we’re going to really miss him.”
Known for his take-no-prisoners approach to tackling industry issues, Bryant earned a reputation as someone who got things done for the industry he served. Like many who knew Bryant well, veteran association leader and AASP/NJ Hall of Famer Joe Lubrano (J&E Auto Body) got to see – and hear – just how committed he was to speaking his mind. If insurers were doing something unpopular among shops, Bryant made sure the carriers knew what they were doing was wrong.
“The Labor Rate was always a big thing for him,” remembers Lubrano. “When there was something that insurers were trying to cut out, Jimmy made sure he got his voice in so everyone was aware of what was happening.”
One of Bryant’s oldest industry friends, AASP/NJ Board member Sam Mikhail (Prestige Auto Body, Garwood) was in touch with the industry advocate on a weekly basis in the old association days. Their last phone conversation just a few short months ago found Bryant in high spirits. Mikhail will never forget the energy and passion Bryant put into solving consumers’ problems.
“Jimmy was a go-getter; he was like a machine gun,” he says. “He went after insurers, he was tough and he got the job done. Insurance companies used to hate to deal with him because he didn’t take no for an answer. He kept beating and beating until he got what the customer was entitled to. He was great.”
“Jimmy was a really special guy,” adds fellow AASP/NJ member Lee Vetland (Lee’s Auto Body, Avenel). “He was different than all of us, but he had the same things in his heart. He wanted the industry to be much, much better. Without Jimmy and his brother, our industry wouldn’t be half as good as it is right now.”
Despite Bryant’s passing, his impact on the New Jersey auto body community will always be felt by anyone willing to stand up on behalf of shops and consumers.
As Mikhail says, “His knowledge and information benefited all of us, and that will go on for many, many years. He may be gone, but he’s not forgotten.”