It’s time to hang up the tools and the spray gun for Spike Sterling, who, at age 71, is retiring this month from the business he and his wife, Christine, built from the ground up beginning in 1987.
Sterling Autobody was sold to a new owner and eventually will move from the Sterlings’ garages next to their home on Bantam Ridge Court. The Sterlings’ last day in the shop is Sept. 28.
They’ve done little advertising through the years, relying on word-of-mouth to build the business. They are thanking their customers who made the business what it is today.
Sterling said he always had an interest in cars and motorcycles.
“When I was 12, I built Whizzer motorcycles and painted gas tanks,” he said. (Whizzers are motorcycle engines fitted to a bicycle to create a small motorcycle.) “My dad always worked on cars, and I followed in his footsteps. He was a jeweler and he wanted me to be a jeweler. I couldn’t see that stuff. It was too little.”
Sterling said he started building hot rods in high school and continues to build them today. He started drag racing when he was 15, without a driver’s license, in his father’s Studebaker.
“He didn’t know it at the time,” Sterling said.
Sterling started his first job at Reichart’s in Wheeling as an over-the-road TV repairman.
“Remember when TVs still had tubes in them and the repairman would come to your house?” he asked.
Eventually, he worked for 15 years underground in the Franklin Mine as a mechanic and welder. When the mine closed and he figured it wouldn’t be coming back, he moved to Arizona to work in a friend’s body shop, but he was spending more to live there than he was earning. Christine told him it was time to come home.
“We started the shop here in a two-car garage and built it to what it is now,” he said.
His son, Cale, is the painter, who, like his father, started working on cars at age 12.