More than three decades later, they continue to enjoy a reputation for being one of the most popular auto body shops in the area. A walk into the main office feels like a greenhouse, with tropical plants and palm trees that the couple says have thrived there for years.
Another change they made around the same time as switching to waterborne paints was adding solar panels to their roof. Other businesses in town that added solar panels for electricity have said the move made financial sense, but Jerry Kottschade said that was not their initial reason for installing them.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said.
Some environmentally minded changes they’ve made have actually cost them more. The clear coat paint they use is still the thicker, solvent-based application. Those filters are changed quarterly, and even though the EPA doesn’t deem them as hazardous waste because the paint is dry, the Kottschades opt to incinerate them rather than put them in a landfill.
“[Getting] rid of the filters is probably about $2,800 to dispose of them that way versus just putting them into the garbage can,” Geri Kottschade said.
Geri Kottschade said when they installed the solar panels, got rid of Styrofoam cups and began reusing and recycling office supplies, they advertised those changes, but their longevity gives them an advantage. A sizable portion of their customers return after having their car body repaired at the shop.
“30--40 percent are repeat customers, and word-of-mouth is just about as big,” she said.
The recycling spreads to the vehicles themselves as well. About one-third of their customers who come in to have parts replaced following an accident will get a door, fender or roof from another donated vehicle dropped off at a salvage yard. Geri Kottschade said that a lot of people get nervous about putting a recycled part on their car, but if it’s a good quality part---clean of rust and damage---it’s a good, viable option.
“I remember years ago, I had a gal that came in that had a car that was beyond repair; we couldn’t fix it for her,” Geri Kottschade said. “It was emotional for her to get rid of the car, very difficult. She goes, ‘What’s going to happen to it?’ I said, ‘It will probably become a donor car. The parts will be used on another car going down the road.’ It made her feel so much better; it’s almost like organ donating.”