Carrboro’s Gates of Beauty


By Laurie Paolicelli

Brother Peacemaker and Gates of Beauty, Carrboro.

Carrboro, North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s cool cousin, has an old soul. For decades, Carrboro has embodied a smart, interesting and — more than anything else — a warm and welcoming personailty, its arms open to all comers. You can be yourself in Carrboro. It’s vibrant and original, and so are many of the people who live there.

There’s a little shop on Main Street exemplifying this respect for the individual and the freedom Carrboro encourages to show your true colors. Not only that, it’s also an auto body repair shop. It’s called Gates of Beauty.

Gates of Beauty is owned and operated by Brother Peacemaker. Brother Peacemaker grew up as Fred Marsh just down the road in Pittsboro. He changed his name after a near fatal car accident spared him his life, and that of his buddy, and awakened in him a calling: he needed to spread peace.

He would say the call came from a higher power, but Brother is quick to point out that he does not call himself a Christian. “I am a believer. It’s that simple. I carry a spiritual message and I believe God is good but I don’t believe in organized religion as the only way to share my belief. I learned early that I could help people wherever I was.”

Brother Peacemaker helps locals and newcomers appreciate the history of Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

So Brother Peacemaker not only fixes vehicles in his tiny body shop on Main Street in Carrboro, he ministers to anyone needing a little touch-up of their own. He lives and works his faith, operating a business that’s as good for your soul as it is for your car.

Brother moved to Carrboro in the 1970s to join a group of mechanics operating a full-service garage. He soon discovered he wasn’t a great mechanic and switched over to bodywork. Learning techniques from veteran experts he realized he had a talent for the craft, and he recognized a beauty in it that he hadn’t found in the mechanical side of the garage.

Brother Peacemaker in the early days in Carrboro.

In 1984, Brother became the sole proprietor, opening the Gates of Beauty Body Shop at 405 East Main Street. From the beginning, he has focused keenly on treating people the way he wants to be treated: Golden Rules have universal applications. He remembers an early job that took longer than planned and, in the end, wasn’t done as well as it could have been. He made it right, though, and told the owner there would be no charge. The customer appreciated Brother’s forthcoming honesty but insisted on paying. “If you treat every one of your customers the way you treated me, you’ll never be without business.”

The business did do well, so well Brother Peacemaker ended up buying the building. He understands that cars are more than just conveyances for most people. Cars are reflections of who we are, or who we want to be. This philosophy has fostered a loyal clientele and a brisk referral business. But what makes Gates of Beauty a one-of-a-kind experience is the love and compassion he shows to everyone who crosses his path, customer or passerby. “My shop is my pulpit,” he says. “I share the word of God with people who want to hear it or who need to be ministered to and relate it to situations I care about.”

Brother Peacemaker has many friends who stop in to say hello and talk about soulful topics.

When he’s not working at the shop, Brother serves as chaplain for the Chatham County Agricultural & Industrial Fair Association. He is featured in Richard Ellington and Dave Otto’s book, Carrboro: Images of America, and the ArtsCenter’s Hidden Voices project. He’s a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather, and being that man to so many constitutes the greatest days of his life.

When Brother started at the Carrboro shop in 1985 he was one of twelve mechanics. Now he operates the business on his own and remains grateful that he landed in Carrboro.

“Carrboro carries a message of respect for individualism, whether that’s gay, lesbian, transgender. It has a respect for diversity. I love Carrboro. I love the walker-bys of all ages, perspectives, and beliefs. If I can spread joy, smile at them and help them feel better about a challenge they’re facing then it’s a great day. The body work is icing on the cake.”

Gates of Beauty’s Brother Peacemaker.

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