New year kicks off new shop
Arnold, Mo.—The doors opened in a brand-new 21,000-square-foot facility for Five Star Autobody in late December 2018 and owner Eric Hummel and his team have hit the ground running since.
“We have only had the new shop for a few months, but already we are at full capacity on a regular basis. Our bays have been full and the guys have been busy,” Hummel said.
The new facility replaces his former 13,000-square-foot building, which was located on Jeffco Boulevard.
“The previous location was a huge part of our past success, but the location was not ideal. There was a lot of traffic, but the buildings and businesses along that stretch are all so close together. People could drive right by and not even know we were there. There was also a workflow issue as we had multiple buildings and angles we were working with,” he said.
Selecting a new location, purchasing land, and obtaining zoning changes from the city was a multi-year process, but he knew he had picked the right spot off of Big Bill Road and was determined to get it done.
“I had my eye on this location for a while and pulled the trigger on purchasing the land. It sits across from a major retail center, just past Interstate 55 & the highway 141 exit. The process with the city was a back-and-forth battle, but when we presented them with the plans and what this business would do to benefit the city, it was game on. Overall, it was about a three-year process.”
Once the final hoops were jumped through and construction began, it was time to equip the facility with the assistance of Doug Slattery of ATI (Automotive Technology Inc).
They decided to go with the Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) Ultra XD CTOF prep booth and a combination of a GFS Ultra XD Mix booth and Ultra XL Paint Booth, Hummel said.
“The XL paint booth gives us a 12-foot ceiling for oversize vehicles, should those opportunities present themselves. I figured it was better to go big now as opposed to having to upgrade later.”
PPG Envirobase High Performance Waterborne is the only paint mixed and sprayed in the new booths. The paint is sourced from Cooper Color along with the shop’s body supplies, he added. “They are less than a mile away from us and that is a big help whenever we are needing something right away.”
Domestic replacement parts are sourced mostly from Weir Wholesale out of Red Bud, Ill. “They come to us multiple times per day and guys over there, like Terry Cottner make it a painless process for us to keep things moving in the shop. We prefer to use OE parts and they have just about everything we need.”
During the planning stages, every little detail of the new facility was planned out so workflow would not be hindered. There are 14 body bays, an extra large wash bay, a staging area, and a two-door drive-through estimating bay in addition to the paint and prep booths.
“It all starts out there in the drive-through estimating bay. That has been a great addition for us to be able to do our estimates without tying up shop space,” Hummel said.
Other additions to the new facility include Innovative body carts with Festool vacuum systems incorporated into them, a Robinair AC1234-6 AC Machine, a large and comfortable waiting area for customers, and an oversized break area for staff.
“We want to make sure that our crew is taken care of also. We spared no expense in making this just as comfortable for them as we did for our customers. They now have state-of-the-art tools and equipment and comfortable work and break spaces.”
Hummel anticipates that he will now grow his business to $3 million in annual revenues.
“I don’t need to be doing a lot more than that to consider my shop to be successful. I think that if we can sustain that number and provide the best customer service possible, we will be much better off than trying to make extra money by taking away attention from other areas,” he said.
Hummel is no stranger to success and has been providing Paintless Dent Repair to customers since 1998.
“I traveled all over the world, storm chasing and had great success. I was working inside other owners’ body shops seeing what worked and what didn’t. When I decided to settle down and open up my own shop, I decided to supplement the PDR work with body work and it eventually became the primary function.”
Looking toward the future, Hummel will continue servicing the surrounding communities as well as being a factory-trained Toyota repair facility in partnership with Weiss Toyota of South County, make decisions regarding ADAS investments, possibly add mechanical repair offerings with an ASE-certified technician and look to upgrading his blueprinting capabilities.
“It’s not in my nature to not do something the right way, so whatever it takes to make this shop successful, I will do it.”