Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin
Since discovering she had breast cancer just a few months ago, a Forreston, IL, woman who works in a body shop has had to go through a lot, but on April 10, 2014, she and her family got a big surprise—a newly renovated home! Kelli and Jeremy Kappes and their three daughters were pleasantly shocked when walking into their newly-renovated home after returning from an “all expenses paid” vacation. Kelli was diagnosed with cancer in February 2014, and has since had surgery to remove a tumor. Her employer, Gates Auto Body in Freeport, IL, and Jeremy’s employer, Fairway Ford Lincoln in Freeport, worked together to send the family to the Wisconsin Dells and help pay for the materials for the makeover. The family also held a benefit April 26, 2014, at Christy’s Bar in Freeport. All of the proceeds will go towards the family’s unexpected medical expenses.
Tammy Grigsby of Covington, KY, is ecstatic to be receiving free auto repair from skilled technicians. “This place is like angels in heaven to me,” she says.
After losing her job as a pastry chef in 2011, losing everything she owned in an apartment fire in 2012, and losing her unemployment benefits in 2014, Tammy no longer takes things like windshield wiper blades or air filters for granted.
“You buy a quart of oil or something for dinner—that’s where I am right now,” she says.
A few yards away from her, in the garage of Walther Autobody in Covington, a team of men in coveralls or flannel shirts and blue jeans is making sure Tammy’s money goes toward dinner.
They’re part of the Samaritan Car Care Clinic, a ministry of the Madison Avenue Christian Church in Covington that four times a year provides free, basic car maintenance for people in need. As they check the radiator fluid, replenish windshield wiper fluid, change the oil, and add air to the tires of Tammy’s 2004 Ford Taurus—which she bought six days before the restaurant where she worked closed and just paid off—the men know they’re doing more than helping Tammy hold onto money for a meal. They’re helping her hold onto hope for a job.
“So many of the cars we see are on their last leg, but this is all they have to drive—it’s not like if something’s wrong, they just hop into their other car,” says Tom Seeger, a retired Cincinnati Bell technician. “When the car’s down, they don’t go to work.”
And at the entry-level jobs most hold, if they don’t show up for work, they soon don’t have a job.
The car care program started nearly seven years ago after church members noticed that many of the people—especially women—showing up for free weekly dinners had serious problems with their cars. “From the work we do, we have a good feel for the needs of the poor, and the biggest challenge for the working poor is transportation,” the reverend Chinnamuthu Simon says.
Simon turned to church member Bruce Kintner, a PNC Bank vice president with car maintenance skills, who came up with the idea of the clinic and recruited other volunteers, among them an accountant, graphic designer, nursing home orderly, and claims agent.
After they advertised the service through Head Start programs and the Women’s Crisis Center, six women showed up for the first clinic in 2007.
Ever since, as soon as the clinics are announced, all 16 half-hour appointment slots are filled immediately. Walther Autobody donates use of its garage. Ashland Inc. donates Valvoline oil. The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation does an annual fundraiser. And in December 2013, Enquirer readers donated funds to pay for a year of the clinics.
About 90 percent of those who bring their cars in are women. Several have been living in their vehicles.
Some, like Grigsby, who says she knows nothing about cars and has no one who can help her, brings her car in every session. “I go on the Internet if I hear something wrong with my car and I start freaking out. To get a job, I have to keep my car safe,” she says. “I have no knowledge of cars, but I’ve been coming here for three years, and they’ve been teaching me. They just showed me how to put in transmission fluid and to check it.”
A basic understanding of their cars can be more than money-saving for the clients. It could be life-saving. Many of the cars have been so poorly maintained that they present a road hazard, Kintner says. He remembers a Pontiac Bonneville brought in that held 4.5 quarts of oil, but was down to a quart.
“It’s amazing that the engine didn’t seize up,” he says. “But it was going to.”
The tires on another woman’s car required 35 pounds of air pressure, but were running on only 15. “Even air takes money at filling stations, and she told us, ‘I don’t have the dollar,’ ” Kintner recalls.
While the volunteers don’t do major repairs like engine overhauls or brake jobs, they know that they are doing at the ground level what politicians and policymakers talk about all the time: helping people retain jobs.
“I get the feeling that 15 years ago, people wrote a check. Now people want to use their skills to help someone else,” says Greg Patterson, a Procter & Gamble employee and first-time volunteer.
He says the four hours of volunteering have left him with a better understanding of other people’s needs and a stronger sense of gratitude.
“There are times when I feel my finances are tight,” he says. “Not even close.”
Joseph Bakle, the first collision repair instructor at the Branch Area Careers Center (BACC) from 1973–1990, left a generous gift after his passing in 2013 to the Branch County Community Foundation in the amount of $156,299.77.
Because of that gift, scholarships will be available to students pursuing careers in auto collision.
The BACC Scholarships fund housed at the community foundation began in 2001 with a goal to “raise enough money to give a student from each BACC program a scholarship every year.”
Bakle graduated from Mark Township High School in Mark Center, OH, in 1946 and was hired on an annual authorization requiring him to earn his teaching degree.
Bakle first attended Ferris State University, where he took the National Occupational Competency test in auto body and scored in the upper 25 percent nationally. He then completed his bachelor’s degree in 1983 in secondary education with an auto body endorsement from Ferris State University.
Bakle taught at the BACC for 17 years until he retired in 1990—when he began his nine-year substitute-teaching career at the BACC.
Throughout that time, he also volunteered many hours to train and prepare students for the collision repair SkillsUSA competitions and numerous demonstrations for collision repair students.
In 2012, Bakle contributed to the BACC Scholarship Endowment Fund, allowing the BACC to provide a $500 scholarship to one outstanding senior from each of the 14 programs at the center.
That same year, he was inducted into the National Technical Honorary Society. Additionally, Bakle received several awards of recognition for his years of teaching and was involved in various educational clubs.
He served on the Coldwater Zoning Board from 1990–1996, volunteered his time at the Community Health Center of Branch County and in Iron Mountain Habitat for Humanity, Dickinson Memorial Hospital, substance abuse programs, and the Breen and Crystal Lake Senior Centers.
Collex Collision Experts has opened a new location in Waterford, MI, giving the company 16 total repair facilities—13 in Michigan and three in Florida.
“We are extremely excited to have had consistent growth over the last 39 years and be able to provide high-quality auto body repair to a larger market,” said Nick Booras, vice president of sales and marketing for Collex Collision Experts. “This would not be possible without the great team members we have in place today. Creating opportunity within communities we serve has been paramount since the beginning, and the ability to serve another community continues to humble us as an organization.”
Collision Systems and 1Collision Network are hosting a Thriving in a Consolidating Collision Marketplace workshop at the Wingate by Wyndam in Indianapolis, IN, on June 10, 2014, and at the Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows, IL, on June 12, 2014. The program is designed for progressive, forward-thinking, independent and dealer, single- and multiple-location collision shop owners, managers, and marketing staff who are interested in discovering new ways to thrive in a consolidated, DRP, web, social, and mobile world.
Attendees will be introduced to strategies, tactics, and technology that will help them be more successful in gaining market share and competing with the regional and national chains. Attendees will also learn how they can use the latest sales, marketing, customer retention, and referral technologies and techniques to capture, service, and retain more customers, revenue, and profit in a consolidating marketplace.
In addition, attendees will receive 14 credits from the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) toward the AMI Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation and a 30-minute marketing consultation.
Early bird registration is $149 until May 19, 2014, and $179 from May 20 through June 5, 2014. Registation includes continental breakfast, lunch, refreshments, and a 30-minute marketing consultation. For special guest room rates, contact the hotels directly and ask for collision industry program rate.
Attendance will be limited to 50 independent and dealership body shops to maintain program quality. Register now.
Josh’s Collision, formerly Mike’s Truck and Auto Body repair on the western side of Park Rapids, MN, on Highway 34 west, has come a long way for a building that has essentially stayed within the same family, writes Nick Longworth at Parkrapidsenterprise.com
Owner Josh Kruchowski was at one point a worker for two-and-a-half years at the building when it was Mike’s, only to branch off on his own for the same amount of time. But then the opportunity came to come back, this time as the boss.
What started with racing her go karts and snowmobiles has turned into a full-time dream come true for Sierra Lantz, a student in the Auto Collision Repair program at the Kent Career Technical Center (KCTC) in Grand Rapids, MI. A recent class project was her own 1989 Mustang, which she’ll race at the Kalamazoo Speedway for the 2014 summer season.
“I want to go as far as I can,” said Lantz about her future. “I like Indi cars, but I will race anything.”
R. Jones Collision 1 has been repairing damaged vehicles in central Iowa for almost 50 years. The business, formerly R. Jones BodyPros, focuses on repairs to all models of passenger vehicles and employs ten. Jones spoke with The Des Moines Register about her family’s business.
“We don’t work on large trucks, semis, or motorcycles,” said Christy Jones, collision repair concierge and daughter to co-owner Bob Jones. “We also don’t just repair vehicles, but try to educate customers about the repair process, especially since the average time between claims is 10 years now, so things have changed.
We see a fairly even split between males and females, although it’s trending more toward females because they’re making more of the household decisions. We also see a lot of Drake students who are from out of state and don’t know where to go. We can help make them and their parents feel better, to know that they’ll be taken care of.
We have developed a ladies-only class that we offer quarterly. I partnered with a mechanics shop and an insurance agent, then we together educate women about owning a vehicle and the repair process. We want to make them feel more comfortable about walking into a facility, to have some knowledge behind them so they aren’t taken advantage of. We see a lot of divorcees, Red Hat Club members, young females out on their own. A little bit of knowledge will go a long way. Women leave surprised at what they’ve learned, such as what they need to do and say at the scene of an accident.
We are busy year-round, but business will pick up when there’s a hail storm in the summertime, for example. Winter has been pretty rough on drivers, and we’ve been extremely busy like most body shops across the Midwest. We also see an uptick in the fall and spring with deer collisions.
I went to school to become a teacher and taught for a year, but decided it wasn’t for me. Then I moved to North Carolina to pursue a job in the NASCAR field. I came back to help when my mom became ill. She was the front office manager. I’ve been here since 2001, and I’ve never left. I plan to purchase the business in the next year or so. It’s neat to be the second generation involved with the business.”
CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts has added a new location in St. Louis, MO, the company announced.
CARSTAR Collision North is owned by John and Cynthia Timmerman and managed by Jeff Barnes.
“Speaking with experience of what a strong brand can do for a company, we are proud and excited to be a new member of the CARSTAR family,” said John Timmerman. “We look forward to building this into something that can be passed on for generations to come.”
Dave Tritz is the well-known owner of Don’s Auto Body in St. Charles, MO, and a former president of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Missouri (AASP-MO) from 2006–2008. A second-generation body shop owner and with his son Adam now working in the shop, Tritz has a 40-year perspective on the collision industry and approaches the business with a commonsense approach. His consulting business, Business Forward, helps body shops all over the country by advising them on what Tritz calls “the big three,” sales, operations, and profit. AASP-MO executive director Ron Reiling calls Tritz “one of the best body shop operators not just in Missouri, but in the country.” Autobody News recently sat down with Tritz to tap into his huge reservoir of knowledge and experience in the collision industry in Missouri.