Don’s Body Shop isn’t slowing down
Overland, Mo.—“Hey man, do you want to help me paint my car after work one day?”
That question was the catalyst for a chain of events which would lead to a 45-year journey in the collision industry for Dennis Carroll, owner of Don’s Body Shop.
Carroll is now celebrating his 40th year as a shop owner, as he reflects on how it began and looks at how he has had to adapt over the years to keep up with an ever-changing collision industry.
“It all started with that conversation about helping my co-worker paint his car. I was working as a technician in an auto repair facility but was starting to question if that was what I wanted to continue doing. The technology was changing, being a mechanic was hard on the body, and I was already leaning toward doing something else. Things were a lot different than they were when I was a kid working at a full service gas station. Things just fell into place after that,” Carroll said.
After completing training through a GM dealership collision program, Carroll began working at an independent body facility where he learned his craft. But work soon slowed and he was forced to the unemployment office.
“I was referred to this little hole-in-the-wall, two-bay body shop, called Don’s Body Shop. Don was an older guy and he would come in early and prep the cars we had. I would pretty much do the rest of the work throughout the remainder of the day. I made sure that the quality of the work I was producing was as good, if not better, than before it got to us. Don was really impressed and decided to let me stay on board. The rest is history and here we are today,” he said.
Carroll has transformed that old two-bay shop, still in the original location, into a 17-Bay facility with updated equipment and tools.
“We just purchased a new Pro Spot SP-5 aluminum welder from ATI (Automotive Technology Inc.) and our body guys were just certified to use it properly. Over the years I have added a Chief EZ Liner rack and two Car-O-Liner benches with mechanical measuring systems, and a Garmat paint booth.”
Future investment considerations include a 1234yf AC machine and a Car-O-Liner digital measuring system.
The shop sprays PPG Envirobase Waterborne paint that he sources from Mid-Nite Auto Supply in St. Peters. “Gregg is a great guy. He always takes care of us. We also get our body supplies from them, as well,” Carroll said.
With the changes in technology and the importance of following OEM procedures, also comes a change in the way shop operations are performed. It is no longer estimate, pull a dent, paint, and move on at Don’s Body Shop. There are standard operating procedures that have been implemented to ensure the safety of customers and to ensure that the shop is held accountable for structural repairs.
“We perform pre- and post-scans on every vehicle that is brought to us, 2015 and newer, without question, using asTech. With the changes in ADAS and sensor technology, this will be a must going forward,” he said.
The shop uses a combination of Audatex and CCC ONE for its shop management systems.
“The software helps us communicate with our customers via phone, text, or email throughout the entire process.”
Carroll is an advocate for DRPs (Don’s has State Farm and American Family Insurance).
“I have always had a good experience with my DRPs. There have been times where they try to squeeze you and cut your estimates down, but that’s when you stand your ground and remind them that we are the eyes, and we are the hands, that do this every day, not them.”
Carroll has seen aftermarket parts quality and availability improve in recent years.
“When aftermarket parts for collision first came out, they were junk. Now they are CAPA-certified and just as good as the OE and readily available through vendors such as Keystone/LKQ. What happens now, though, is the OE parts providers will price match the aftermarket parts and you get OE replacements at aftermarket pricing.”
Carroll sources most of his OEM parts through Weir Parts Center, in Red Bud, Ill., which delivers twice daily. He also will call on the Lou Fusz Automotive network, as well.
“My philosophy has always been to do the best work possible and to treat people like family. I am now working on the third generation’s cars of some of my original customers and they are my family. It has been an amazing 40 years.”
At a glance
• Years as owner: 40
• Average RO-$3100
• Average Car Count Monthly-50
• Industry affiliations- I-CAR, AASP-MO
• DRPs- State Farm, American Family Insurance
• Employees- 2 body techs, 1 paint tech, 1 painter’s helper, 1 office manager, 1 estimator