Jerry Kottschade retired Oct. 15---52 years after opening what would become Jerry’s Abra Auto Body & Glass---but daughter Laura is ready to step up.
Jerry’s Abra Auto Body & Glass was started Oct. 15, 1971, by Jerry and Geralynn "Geri" Kottschade. They purchased a bankrupt Ben’s Bee Line and set up business in a Carriage Repair Shop on Rock Street in Mankato, MN. Then, 16 years later, Jerry purchased land on Madison Avenue and Jerry’s Abra Auto Body & Glass grew from a 5,000-square-foot shop to 18,500 square feet.
Today, Jerry’s Abra Auto Body & Glass is still owned by Jerry and Geri Kottschade and their daughter, Laura, is on her way of being the second-generation owner. The family works side by side with 35 well-trained, dedicated and conscientious co-workers.
Laura intends to carry on the Golden Rule business philosophy the Kottschades built their business on---treat your customers and business partners like you would want to be treated. Jerry’s Abra has gone through many changes and survived a few storms over the last years, but has continued serving the community.
Jerry remembers keeping the doors open with a year of buying damaged vehicles, fixing and selling them.
“We never made much money on them but kept the technicians working and the bank account open,” Jerry said, smiling as he thinks back to spending his afternoons at the auction. “I never much cared for the busy times, as they were usually at the expense of someone’s misfortune.”
The St. Peter tornado comes to mind as an example for Jerry.
“We were too busy to offer the service we want and believe in, and it was too hard to spend the time with our customers," Jerry said. "I remember standing in the shell of our new store in 1986 looking around wondering how we would ever fill it. Now, we are looking for room in every inch of the property.”
Jerry planned on hanging his hat up Oct. 15, 52 years after opening his doors for the first time. Laura will take over as CEO, working with her mother Geri, Jerry’s CFO, to learn the other half of the business. Jerry plans on farming, traveling and enjoying his time with his family and dogs Lucy and Sally.
Jerry’s Abra Auto Body & Glass is a complete collision center, committed to training and manufacturer certifications. Laura plans to continue their commitment to excellent repairs with ongoing education and training on the latest vehicle repair processes.
“Vehicles are changing every day, from electric vehicles to ADAS systems, and electronics is a challenge that requires constant updates and research,” she noted. “We prepare every repair plan with the manufacturer’s repair procedures to repair your vehicle back to pre-incident condition. I spend a great deal of time for each customer researching and documenting repair planning to ensure they get the best repair.”
When asked what the biggest changes in business the last 52 years were, Jerry said technology advancements have revolutionized the business.
“There were many that made dynamic changes, like fax machines, personal digital assistants and cell phones; going from Polaroid pictures and mailing estimates to insurance companies to faxing and then snapping photos with your phone and electronically sending,” he said. “Next would be full-frame vehicles to unibody and then came aluminum. But nothing has changed the industry more than accident avoidance and the vehicle technology. The new vehicle has made us take a good look at our business model and make hard decisions on the direction we want to go in the future.”
Laura sees herself following in her parents’ footsteps with an incredible work ethic and industry leadership.
“I see myself getting to work before everyone else to prepare for the day, then spending time with the team,” she said. “I’d like to continue in industry involvement and someday be Women’s Industry Network (WIN) chair, an organization my mother founded and led.”
Already an established business woman, Laura has a strong future in front of her being the woman on Madison Avenue who stepped into her father’s shoes and led Jerry’s Abra Auto Body & Glass into the next 50 years.