If you have been in any industry for more than six decades, you have a lot of memories to look back on---and hopefully most of them are fond.
Such is the case for Gino Bellagio, 81, who recently retired and closed his body shop, Bill & Gino's Body & Paint. The shop had been a fixture in Healdsburg, CA, since 1961.
The collision repair industry has been good to Bellagio, who has no regrets.
"This business has changed a lot since I entered this industry as a tech back in 1955," Bellagio said. "These cars now are more like computers than automobiles, and it has become a lot tougher to make a buck as a shop owner.
“We always kept our business small and were involved in everything from the very beginning, so we never compromised our quality. We built a reputation for being honest and straightforward. Healdsburg is a small town with only a few shops, so our reputation here was always important because a lot of my customers were a lot more than just customers; they were also friends and neighbors."
Bellagio never really wanted a career in collision repair, but life doesn’t always go exactly as planned, he said.
"I started working at a gas station here in town while I was a senior at Healdsburg High, and my good friend Bill Bonham would come by and do our body work,” he said. “My goal at that time was to be a mechanic because I liked tinkering with cars.
“One day, Bill told me about a job at a local Chevrolet dealership, but when I found out it was for a body man, I said no thanks. He told me to come down anyway and maybe they would hire me as a mechanic. But there weren’t any openings on the mechanical side, so I took the job working in their collision center and realized it was more challenging and interesting than being a mechanic. I never thought I would do this for 64 years, that's for sure!"