Monday, 20 August 2018 18:14

50-Year-Old Emporia, KS, Body Shop Is In It for the Long Haul

Written by Lydia Kautz, The Emporia Gazette
John Wheeler, who owns Floyd's Inc., looks at the inside of a car. The business is celebrating 50 years of existence. John Wheeler, who owns Floyd's Inc., looks at the inside of a car. The business is celebrating 50 years of existence. Lydia Kautz/Gazette


“That used to be 20 percent of the business,” he said.


Perfect Partners


He has different duties now as a business owner, but when his employees have a significant backlog of work, he and his wife dedicate their evenings and weekends to working on customers’ vehicles.


Though Ruth works full-time as a Lyon County District Court administrator, she also spends time working on cars.


“I help him tear down cars and help with the painting and things like that,” she said. “I don’t do it unless he needs some help out there.”


Her husband recalls working on cars with her during a stretch where they were shorthanded.


“She’d get off work at 5 (p.m.), change her clothes, come out and do collision work ‘til at least midnight,” he said.


Often, John said, their sessions would last well past the stroke of midnight---until 3 a.m. sometimes. They do whatever it takes, he said, even if it requires a 90--97-hour workweek.


Ruth learned how to do auto body repairs, she said, from years of working with him. They’ve been working as a team since the summer of 1985.


“She’s a heck of a bodyman,” John said.


“I’ve done just about everything,” Ruth said.


They’ve rebuilt multiple vehicles that had been declared total losses. One of them, he said, Ruth drove back and forth to Ottawa for 20 years, putting about 100,000 miles on it before rebuilding another.


“If she didn’t have a real job, we’d have her out in the body shop,” John said.


Rolling With the Changes


These days, he said, they’re busier than they’ve ever been since he started at Floyd’s because of an overall industry shortage of people able to do what the job requires. He said he sees a lot more deer hits than he used to, with deer moving all year in a way they never did before.


They do end up with the occasional backlog, according to John, because there’s an increasing demand for auto body work and fewer people know how to do it. Multiple body shops have closed in the region, including ones in Burlington and Council Grove, he said, because it’s hard to find employees with the right skill set.

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