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Thursday, 20 September 2018 15:56

Sterling Autobody Owner Hangs Up Tools, Spray Gun in Wintersville, OH

Written by Paul Giannamore, Herald-Star
Spike and Christine Sterling sit in the office of Sterling Autobody on Bantam Ridge Court, Wintersville, OH, in front of an arrow stating “South for the Winter.” Spike Sterling retired from the business he established in 1987. He earned acclaim from his customers for his service and for helping the community. Spike and Christine Sterling sit in the office of Sterling Autobody on Bantam Ridge Court, Wintersville, OH, in front of an arrow stating “South for the Winter.” Spike Sterling retired from the business he established in 1987. He earned acclaim from his customers for his service and for helping the community.

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“He’s 48 now,” Sterling said. They’ve had employees who have worked for them for years, some for more than 30, and four employees retired from the shop.

 

Christine worked at Trinity Health System and was director of environmental technology. At Sterling’s, she did the book work and managed the shop. She noted they’ve used accountant Dana Joyce for taxes for years, and recalled him telling her, “If you’re paying taxes, you’re making money.”

 

The Sterlings are known for community generosity, helping others and organizations.

 

“We helped Big Red, the sheriff’s department and the Little League; we didn’t even want a sign put out,” Sterling said.

 

Customers would regularly stop by to talk and eat popcorn (“Putting in the popcorn machine was the best thing I’ve ever done,” Sterling said) and when they needed some easy, small thing done, he did it on the spot at no charge. The returns for kindness were thank-you cards, cookies, cakes, pies and the occasional six-pack.

 

“I feel sorry for older ladies. They get taken advantage of. If I do something free for them one time, they tell 50 friends and you get at least five new customers out of that,” he said.

 

Christine said retirement is bittersweet, but it’s time.

 

“It has to end sometime. He can’t work his whole life,” she said.

 

They’ll travel as snowbirds and Spike will keep working on street rods for fun. He’s sold his drag race car. And, even in Florida, he’s known by his neighbors for his body work.

 

A neighbor with a Porsche racer asked him to repair and paint the car just before the Sterlings were ready to head back north. He told her to mask off the car and have it jacked up in the driveway, and he painted it in the morning before leaving for home.

 

The downside of the pony-tailed Sterling being well-known is that he is something of a local celebrity, unable to go anywhere in town without being stopped by friends and customers---and there are lots of them.

 

“We have to go out of town to get dinner. Otherwise, there are five people who want their cars fixed,” he said. Christine said they were waiting to get on a ride at Disney World once and someone yelled, “Hey, Spike!”