As surrounding Denver development booms, so does business at Premier Collision
Denver—In a sea of construction along Brighton Boulevard Corridor north of downtown Denver sits an unassuming body shop, Premier Collision, an AAA-approved shop and an AAA Insurance DRP. Despite changing surroundings, and an ever-evolving collision marketplace, Owner Rian Conradie has remained steadfast in putting his customers’ interests first for more than 18 years.
Participating in a single DRP through AAA Insurance gives Conradie the flexibility to focus on accurate repairs, he says, ultimately satisfying the customer.
“The reason AAA is so good is they’re customer-oriented and so are we,” he said. “We feel major insurance DRPs are more money-driven than customer-driven.
AAA also advocates the use of OEM sheet metal, whether it’s new or recycled, he said. However, for structural replacement parts, he only installs new OEM to maintain structural integrity and, ultimately, occupant safety in the event of another collision.
Dealers in the Medved group, Mike Shaw Subaru, Stevinson Toyota East, and Stevinson Lexus of Frederick are go-to sources for OEM parts, Conradie said, adding that his relationships with their personnel are the most important factor in doing business with them. Central Auto Parts and LKQ are his preferred suppliers for recycled parts.
After each job, AAA members fill out a customer satisfaction report card. To maintain status as an AAA-approved shop, 40 surveys must be completed each year, with the shop exceeding an average of 90-percent customer satisfaction.
“You will make mistakes, and I’m very aware of that, but it’s how you fix the problem that makes a difference,” he said. Assisting with quality control is Painter and Shop Manager Shannon Cardinal.
Proximity to downtown Denver, coupled with AAA, provides more than enough work for the eight-man, 10,000-square-foot shop. So much so, that Conradie has to turn away as much business that he takes in, mainly hail jobs. In all, car counts are up to 25 cars a month.
“What’s nice about AAA is that if a club member is in an accident, they usually call AAA first, and then are referred to an approved shop,” he said. “The biggest thing for us is to always ask how people found us.”
Secretary Karma DeSilva keeps tabs on how younger motorists find the shop online, such as through Yelp (a five-star rating with 16 reviews) and Google (29 reviews with a 4.5-star rating).
For longtime customers, he’ll work on just about anything. “I’ve never been the type of person to run the business by the dollars,” he said, referring to profit per job. “If you keep it simple, you don’t have to run it by the numbers due to low overhead.”
Even though they’ll work on most vehicles, Conradie said it’s not easy to attract capable techs to work on them.
Experiencing a technician shortage, Conradie is of the mindset to grow his own, such as Lincoln Tech student Colton Roy, who is working with his experienced techs and painters and learning on the job.
A South African transplant, Conradie has modeled his business after his father’s, Arno VanDerWesthuitzen, who operated a shop he worked in as a young man. Armed with ambition and collision repair experience, he immigrated to the U.S. in the early ‘90s, landing in Southern California and eventually settling in Denver.
The former owner of Downing Street Garage, Douglass Kirchdorfer, was willing to give Conradie a shot, when he agreed to extend a loan to him for collision equipment from a shop he was closing.
Nearly two decades later, Conradie still remains friends with Kirchdorfer and is forever grateful for the opportunity he granted him, and is satisfied with the business he’s built since then.
Looking toward the future, he said the 18,000-square-foot plot of land that his shop sits on is valuable, more so than the building he owns. Larger corporations are buying up properties, scraping the structures, and constructing new buildings for breweries, grocery stores, multi-unit residences, and more.
The City and County of Denver website explains the redevelopment: “For more than 100 years, River North has been an economic and industrial hub in Denver. Brighton Boulevard has been its central artery — the thoroughfare that connected downtown to I-70. Now, Brighton Boulevard is being redeveloped to reflect the changing character of the neighborhood. The new road will feature protected bike lanes, continuous sidewalks, new stoplights, protected turn lanes, and beautiful new landscaping. The redevelopment of Brighton Boulevard will generate growth for businesses and create a safer, more walkable, and engaged community.”
For the right price, he’d be willing to sell the land and relocate the business, he said, possibly opening a new, smaller shop. Meanwhile, he intends to take care of his customers, watch his daughter play competitive softball, and plan for his retirement that includes sailing the West Coast.