Tradition honors community and customers while building business for today, tomorrow

Cupertino Body Shop keeps pace with technology, embraces PartsTrader

Campbell, Calif.—Cupertino Body Shop had only a brief tenure in the town it is named after, but has a long history in Campbell, where the business has been located for more than 40 years.

“My dad started the business in Cupertino in 1968, but about six months later moved it to Campbell,” explained Nancy Yeager, who owns and operates the business with her siblings, Russ Cooper and Lori Militante. “Dad and his business partner retired in 2006, and we bought the business from them.”

The company belongs to the Campbell Chamber of Commerce and gives back to the community by supporting sports teams at the nearby high school the shop owners attended. The shop office includes dozens of photos of the Little League teams the shop has sponsored since the 1970s when Cooper himself was playing.

“People often come in and point to the photos and say, ‘That’s my cousin,’ or ‘That’s me,’” Militante said.

And three years ago, the shop spent months working to restore the City of Campbell’s “Rescue 25,” the vehicle used by the first certified fire department paramedics in Northern California. The vehicle is now housed in the Campbell Historical Museum and used in parades, festivals and other events.

“That was a big, but fun, project we did for the community,” Yeager said.

She and her siblings also continue to help those on a budget find a way to afford the repair work they need, sometimes even doing simple, while-you-wait fixes at no charge.

“There are some people who obviously can’t afford to get their cars done completely,” Yeager said. “We work with a lot of elderly people. When I see them, I picture my mom and dad, so we’re going to help them as much as possible. That’s how my dad ran the business. That’s how he got customers. People remember that. We’ve had multiple generations of customers now. They still tell us things they remember that dad did for them.”

The shop also has remained loyal customers of a number of industry vendors. Cooper said the shop has purchased paint and supplies from Cook’s Automotive for more than 20 years, and has been spraying Axalta Coating Systems products since before he joined his father’s company in 1983.

While tradition is clearly important at Cupertino Body Shop, new technology also has brought changes to the company. The shop recently upgraded to the Chief Genesis II measuring system for its Chief EZ-Liner frame rack, for example. And as a direct repair shop for one insurance company, State Farm, the company now uses PartsTrader.

“When that initially started, to be honest, we thought it was ridiculous,” Yeager said. “But we’ve actually found that it’s been very helpful. We don’t have to get on the phone and call a million people. You just send out a request and the information comes back. So I think it’s a pretty cool thing. We found a lot of dealers that we wouldn’t initially have called. There’s a dealership, Ron DuPratt Ford, up in Dixon, that takes care of us so well. They are far away but they give us great prices and they’re down here two or three times a day. Their customer service is perfect. We found them through PartsTrader.”

Yeager said she and her siblings have each found their niche within the business. She is an estimator and handles much of the interaction with insurance companies. Cooper also writes estimates and oversees production. Militante is the office manager.

The shop also has six production employees.

“It was very challenging initially to find the right kind of people,” Yeager said, noting that the shop under her father’s ownership had essentially employed the same four people for decades. “That was the biggest wake-up call when we took over and all of a sudden started getting really busy. I would say that is the hardest part about running the business, making sure you have a good crew. A couple people we let hang around here way longer than we should have. But right now we have the best crew we’ve ever had. These guys are great, just fantastic.”

Yeager said one source of help they’ve used in running the business is the California Autobody Association. Speakers at meetings and other information supplied by the association have been helpful, she said, and the meetings also are “a good way to touch base with some other shops that are well informed.”

Yeager and her siblings take a great deal of pride in having kept the business going through the recession and seeing it continue to grow.

“My mom and dad are proud of us, that we work well together running the business,” she said. “It makes them happy. Now we want to build the shop up to where it is something that eventually someone will want. None of our children are interested in running the shop, so we need to make sure it’s a profitable business someone will want to buy.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.