Steve Tass, Cristy Tass and their employees have withstood road closings, cancer and the changing automotive industry. They celebrated 35 years in business at Custom Auto Builders in August.
Getting to the body shop at 335 S. Delaware Ave. has been a challenge this summer, with major road construction just a block away on Mason City’s Fifth Street SW. Reconstruction of the Delaware bridge a few years ago posed another serious obstacle.
Debbie Bryan, office manager for 25 years, said, “A customer told me, ‘You know you have a good reputation if they can find you in this mess.’”
“The reason we’ve stayed in business is we have a real handle on customer service and quality control ... despite multiple road closings!” said Steve.
“We’ve been in tune with helping customers make smart decisions on fixing cars, in keeping with insurance company practices,” he said. "I think that’s why people keep coming back.”
He grew up with a love of cars on his parents’ local farm, following two older brothers with the same hobby.
“In 1976, I bought a ’77 Jeep CJ7 from Van Horn Auto Supply, completely totaled. It was so new; it had only 1,400 miles on it. A guy bought it and ran into a bridge.”
While a senior at Mason City High School, he repaired the Jeep in his parents’ garage. Steve said he was particularly intrigued by the nice paint jobs on cars.
He started Custom Auto Builders in 1983 with a partner, Brad Blazek.
“At that time, Brad and I were doing just rebuilders---late model wrecks we’d buy, fix up and sell. That’s how the name Custom Auto Builders started. I had a custom car myself---a ’55 Chevy. It was my brother’s. I was the baby of the family, so I ended up with it. I painted it my first year in business, and Cristy and I went to 21 shows with it," he said.
Brad worked with Steve for almost two years and then decided to go back to his family’s business, Blazek Electric. The body shop has been part of the original Blazek warehouse ever since it opened. Steve noted that Brad passed away last December.