New location, expanded business allows restorer to flourish in today’s market
Lynnwood, Wash.—D&L Restoration has experienced growth, a major move, as well as business development issues over the past 10 years, but owners Louie and Laura Cohn are pleased with what the company has accomplished in its niche market.
“When we purchased the business, there were few business procedures in place,” said Laura Cohn. “Since our business is so different than a general repair shop, we have had to develop and customize our own management system to track everything from technician time to specialized parts purchases to fabrication costs. We hired a business coach and continue to improve the business processes each year.”
In order to better control estimates and costs, D&L designed a form for new customers outlining the complexities of creating a valid estimate for restoration services. It explains in detail the processes the company will adhere to during the estimating and restoration segments, ongoing communication with the customer during all phases, plus the desire to have the customer be an active participant in the overall project’s progress.
Founded in 1996 by Cohn’s late father, Louie Sr., the business was located at two relatively small Everett sites before the owners, who purchased the business in 2008, found its new 12,000-square-foot home on the Mukilteo Speedway last year.
With 10,000 square feet of shop space, plus an upstairs office and storage area for parts and memorabilia, the Cohns said they are now able to handle more vehicles and service additional customers. On Parts & People’s recent visit, there were 27 cars, trucks, and other vehicles in the shop. They ranged from minor paint and repair work to full restorations. There is also an off-site vehicle storage area for overflow and long-term projects.
During an average year, D&L will provide work on some 100 vehicles, with 15-20 complete restoration projects in the mix. With five full-time employees, plus themselves, the Cohns said the mechanical, body, and paint techs are kept busy each week with various projects.
“Right now we have everything from a 1928 Nash to a Volkswagen bus, sports cars, pickup trucks, Jeeps, and even a GMC motorhome we are providing various services for,” said Louie Cohn, a former technician at Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz dealerships. “We get a wide diversity of vehicles each year, though recently we’ve had a rash of VW buses and Mercedes-Benz roadsters.”
With everything from British autos to muscle cars, and from antiques to motorcycles being brought to the shop, most of their customers are from the greater Puget Sound area, but they have provided restoration for vehicles from North Carolina and Australia.
While D&L provides complete restoration services, including painting (their painters use solvent-based paints and prefer PPG because of its quality and color matching), metal fabrication, welding, brakes, and more, Laura Cohn said they send out most upholstery work to a local specialist because major jobs can be time-consuming.
Over the years, the Cohns said they have had many projects that have been fun to work on, including a 1937 Hudson, a 1963 Avanti, a 1968 Roadrunner, the 1928 Nash, and others, as well as a hydroplane.
“We’ve been blessed with some exceptional car and truck restorations, but once in a while we do have unusual challenges,” Louie Cohn said. He noted that a past 1966 GTO project was “possessed” and everything from engine to electrical and body and paint work had to be done three times over.
An average frame-up restoration generally runs about $100,000, though they have had them range higher based on the scope of restoration repair and services performed.. The 1963 Avanti was $132,000 and the 1937 Hudson, restored over a four-year period from 2002-2006, was about $160,000.
Though the Cohns bought D&L during the economic downturn in 2008, Louie Cohn said the business has remained busy. “Because of our niche, most of our customers have their financials in place and can afford to move ahead with projects.”
Laura Cohn added, “It’s still a strong market, and now we’re seeing younger families bringing in cars for restoration, maybe even the grandfather’s old car. It becomes a team effort, and for us there is a personal meaning for almost every project. For Louie, each one of those projects has to be done right.”
He admits that he gets a sentimental attachment to most projects.
“We love our customers and the projects we get to do for them.”