Rod Behler practically teethed on the tires at Fred’s Body Shop.
He was 2 years old when his father purchased the George Kaschmitter Building in 1959.
“I learned from my dad, hands-on, in the shop,” Behler said.
Behler opened Fred’s Body Shop on Sept. 21, 1959. He, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Behler, was born and raised in Ferdinand, Idaho, and lived in Lewiston, Idaho, at the time. He brought 15 years of auto body experience to the business and moved his wife, Norma, and family, to Cottonwood, Idaho.
After Rod graduated from Prairie High School, he spent three years in the Navy as a diesel mechanic.
“Like most people, I wanted to get out of there for a while and see the world,” he said. “Then I realized how fortunate I was to be able to live in Idaho County.”
Rod and June Hinkleman began dating in 1979 and were married in 1981. They took over Fred’s Body Shop on April 1, 1985.
June now works full time at St. Mary’s Hospital and also keeps the books at Fred’s.
“Owning our own business has offered flexibility in many ways,” she said. “It allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom for many years and has provided well for our family.”
In 2009, when the Behlers celebrated the shop’s 50th anniversary, they had no way of knowing it would be the last time Fred would be in the shop. He died days after the celebration and Norma followed just a few months later.
“It was a very special time, looking back now,” June said.
Rod said the biggest changes in the industry have been those from the simple engines to the electronic age.
“We’ve learned hands-on, as things have changed, with the help of a few classes,” he said.
Aside from the Behlers, the work crew includes Shawn Mager, who has been at the shop a decade, and Clancy Slichter, who worked for the business in the past and came back full time in the spring.
“I have always enjoyed the people I work for and being able to offer them good, quality service – that’s the best part of the job, seeing satisfied customers,” Rod said.