Tuesday, 17 April 2018 18:56

Bates Collision Stands by Quality Work for 30+ Years in IL

Written by Robyn Gautschy, The Register-Mail
Bates Collision Center is located at 799 E. Main St. in Galesburg, IL. Bates Collision Center is located at 799 E. Main St. in Galesburg, IL. STEVE DAVIS/The Register-Mail


Steve Bates got into the auto body business a step at a time. 

The son of a mechanic, Bates grew up with an interest in cars and took to tinkering with them from an early age. As an adult, he began working as a welder at Butler Manufacturing and then opened Bates Collision Center on Main Street in 1985.

But for the first three years of that venture, Bates kept his job at Butler, working the third shift and turning right around to build his fledgling business. He spent three years working around the clock before a 1988 hailstorm convinced him he was ready to be a one-job man. So, he quit his job at Butler and began working full-time in the auto industry.

Bates Collision Center continued to grow its customer base as well as its square footage: In 1990, the business moved across the street to its current facility at 799 E. Main St. in Galesburg, IL.

Today, the shop employs 12 people, or 14 if you count Steve and his wife, Patsy, who handles accounting matters. And more than 30 years later, Bates isn’t ready to slow down: He hopes to expand his shop in the near future, and he handles rental properties on the side. And, as any auto body man will tell you, the learning process never really ends, especially with how quickly technology is transforming the auto industry.

Read on as Bates discusses his commitment to quality body work, his advice for staying safe on the road this summer and why teamwork means so much to his business.

RM: Give us some background on you. Where did you grow up and go to school? How did you come to open your own body shop?

SB: I grew up mostly in Galesburg---when I was 12 years old we moved here from Davenport. I went to work for Butler Manufacturing. I was out there for 14 years as a welder and I got a bright idea that I was going to get a dealer’s license and open up a body shop. So I got the dealer’s license and opened up a shop (in 1985) ... and for three years I did both jobs. I worked third shift at Butler and then I came in here for the day shift. After three years, I thought---in 1988 we had a big hail storm---so I thought, if I’m going to quit (Butler), now’s a good time to quit. So I quit Butler and we’ve stayed pretty busy here. ... We started out across the street. ... We ended up renting the building behind that and then the building next door. In 1990 we built this building.

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