Opportunity knocks for expanding Complete Auto Body & Truck Repair in St. Charles
St. Charles, Mo.—In every down situation there is an opportunity if you can think outside the box, said Bob Barks, corporate advisor and founder of Complete Auto Body & Truck Repair in St. Charles. “We decided to offer a more complete range of service for our customers so that they know they can get everything they need from us.”
That extends to Complete’s most recent venture — a 6,000-square-foot truck repair facility in St. Charles County, which opened in January. Truck repair, though, is nothing new to Complete, Barks said.
Bark’s son and CEO Kurt Barks said knowing they’d be opening the new facility, Complete hired a heavy-duty repair supervisor and two heavy-duty technicians a year prior and had them work out of the Complete facility on North Lindbergh Road in Hazelwood. Complete’s third and original location is on West Florissant in Dellwood. So why an emphasis on heavy duty now?
“Complete Auto Body & Truck Repair grew from its origin as a body shop based on customer demand,” said Kurt Barks. “Customers wanted mechanical repair for passenger cars, so we added that. We, and therefore our customers, had less than satisfactory experiences using outside towing services and car rental when loaners were needed, so we added those capabilities. And when we saw there was a need for heavy-duty repair, we believed we could be successful at that, too.”
The new truck repair facility features both mechanical and collision repair. The mechanical repair area has two portable 48,000-pound four-post lifts and the space has been left open to maximize the utility based on the vehicles in the shop. A fixed heavy-duty four-post lift is also being installed. To provide maximum availability of service, the facility operates from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. and offers Saturday hours, too, Barks said.
The collision side has a drive-through paint booth and, just as at the other two facilities, features a PPG paint system that’s serviced by Mid-Nite Auto Supply, he said. Although Complete builds some of its own equipment and purchases on the secondary market, they reply on AE Equipment for some installation and purchases. Primary parts suppliers are Stone Wheel and NAPA.
Bob Barks designs the equipment and does blueprints for the facilities. He also has four people doing construction and maintenance, one of whom is Jason Barks, Kurt’s brother. Kim Barks, Kurt’s sister, supervises the repair operation at the heavy-duty location and, to complete the family operation, Bob’s wife, Jan, is the company bookkeeper.
Kurt Barks said the St. Charles location was chosen for a couple of reasons. “First, we want all of our locations to be no more than seven miles from one another so we can go from facility to facility easily each day as we need to. The second reason we believed this was a very good location is its proximity to Earth City, the airport and other business close by that have heavy-duty fleets,” he said.
Although there were people coming in before the facility even opened asking when they could drop off trucks for repair just from the sign outside the building, Kurt Barks set ambitious revenue goals and uses three outside salespeople who call on businesses, public works departments, and municipalities with fleets to feed work to all three Complete locations.
One of those people is Karissa Melvin, who runs the business side of the heavy-duty facility and works alongside Kim Barks. Melvin has seven years’ experience as a heavy-equipment service writer and had spent five years selling Cummins engines and parts.
Kurt Barks believes the growth of the heavy-duty side will mirror the way the passenger vehicle business was built. “We have a very strong customer orientation,” he said. “We offer 24-hour towing with our trucks and we communicate clearly and honestly with customers what needs to be done. We strongly recommend that vehicles and trucks be maintained as a way to cut down on repair costs and we also wash and inspect every car and truck before it’s released.
Community involvement is integrated into their business, too. The BackStoppers is an organization that assists families of police officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty. In 2012, Complete Auto Body and Truck Repair was a sponsor and participated in activities that generated $112,000.
“We don’t have an end in sight for how big we want to grow,” Bob Barks said. “Where we see a need, we’re going to try to supply it.”