Kay Parks legacy continues to flourish
Tacoma, Wash.—There is little doubt that Nathan Mack is not aware of the legacy and reputation of the collision shop he and his wife, Melissa, purchased three years ago in June.
“We’re hoping we’ve done justice to former owners Kay Parks and Dan and Sue Meyer,” he says.
The legacy began in 1946 when Parks opened a collision shop in Tacoma, moving it to the current location on South 12th in 1968. In 1984, the Meyers purchased the business and it became Kay Parks/Dan Meyer Auto Rebuild. When Mack acquired the collision shop, he asked Parks if he could use his name and call the business Kay Parks Autobody. Still a frequent visitor to the shop, Mack said Parks was pleased with the decision.
While there are businesses that flourish over decades and various owners, this one is perhaps a bit special, said Mack, the owner of the former Ponders Collision from 1995-2008.
“Everyone in the industry, including insurance companies, knew this was the premier shop in the region with a spotless reputation. For decades, third- and fourth-generation customers kept coming back for collision repair, and that’s true today.”
With 13 employees, including five body techs, Mack said the 14,000-square-foot shop handles about 100 vehicles a month. “On average, we’re booked three weeks out.”
After acquiring the shop, Mack wanted to switch from solvent to waterborne paint, but realized his paint tech, Wayne Smith, needed to be part of that equation. Smith, who worked six years for Mack at Ponders, attended a waterborne class to learn about the process, and along with Mack, the decision was finalized and Standox/Axalta waterborne coatings are now used in the shop’s two Blowtherm paint booths.
“It was a smart decision to move to waterborne, and even though it’s a bit more expensive, we find it quicker to use,” Mack said. “Once the process is learned, we realized it was the right move, and its better for the environment.”
Environmental issues are key to Mack as the shop was the first collision repair business in Tacoma to become EnviroStars certified. “We just replaced all of our shop lighting with LED lights under the Tacoma Public Utilities Bright Program. It not only provides better lighting in the shop for the employees, it will save us about $500 a month on our utility bill, and the lighting fixtures last for years.”
While at Ponders, Mack said about 80 percent of his business involved DRPs. “Here it’s just 50 percent with basically four insurance company relationships, though we are a favored shop with several other carriers. We also value the assignments we receive from the CCC ONE Open Shop program. Insurance carriers can instantly assign customers to our shop even if we don’t have a DRP relationship. It’s a program that works well and it’s likely to perpetuate within the industry.”
Mack is also interested in OEM certification programs. “It just seems smart to be involved in these dedicated programs. We may look at VW or Honda initially, but GM may soon have a program (one is scheduled to launch in early 2018) and Tesla is a possibility. In the future, I see less DRPs and more OEM certifications. We have an excellent staff, including Bruce Fraser, our operations manager, who I have the utmost confidence in, so we can handle OE programs with confidence.”
As supporters of local automotive training, the shop has hired graduating students from Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) and Bates Technical College. “We have an excellent body tech from Clover Park, and we want to bring in more young people and mentor them in our system,” Mack said.
“We recently hired a talented young lady who graduated from the Bates collision program. She is starting in our detail department, but will be part of our ‘Grow Your Own’ program,” said Fraser, a 1986 graduate of the CPTC program.
The shop is a longtime ASA Northwest (ASA-NW) member, beginning with the ownership of the Meyers (Dan Meyer was the ASA-NW 1988 Outstanding Member of the Year). Fraser is the past collision committee chair for the Pierce County Unit of ASA-NW, as well as the group’s past president. Mack currently serves as collision chair for that unit.