Hard work, dedication, and steady expansion pay off for Kelly’s Body Shop Inc

Santa Ana, Calif.—In recent years, Benjamin Mendoza Sr., president and CEO of family-owned Kelly’s Body Shop, said he has received more than one call from a multi-shop organization (MSO) wanting to buy his shop but, so far, he’s turned them down.

“The biggest challenge for independent collision shops today is consolidation,” he said. “More and more small shops are joining MSOs to help them stay open and compete in the industry.”

Mendoza believes that as long as he is able to invest in equipment, send his technicians to training, and produce quality work, he will always have a place as an independent in the collision industry.

Mendoza came to the U.S. from Colima, Mexico, in 1973, and has been in the collision industry since 1979, first as a technician, then as a shop foreman, and finally as a manager.

“I was able to run the body shop I worked at for more than 14 years, and helped turn it into a profitable and reputable business.”

Mendoza said he loved his work, but got bored, so with the help of his wife, Elvira, he bought Kelly’s  Body Shop in 1993 and brought the work ethic, passion, and loyalty that helped him succeed at the other shop.

The shop was originally opened in 1978 and had a good reputation in the community when the owner decided to retire, Mendoza said, and it was sold two more times before he bought it. 

“The other owners kept the name because of the reputation for quality work maintained by each of them,” he said. “You might say it had become a ‘brand,’ so I kept it as well.”

The shop was only 2,000 square feet, but well established and, with hard work and careful investments in staff and equipment, it prospered under Mendoza’s ownership.

In 1995 he purchased an adjacent 10,000-square-foot lot, then acquired another 8,500-square-foot lot.

“Business was growing, which forced me to expand little by little,” he said. “Fortunately for me, the business produced money for me to invest, so I turned around and put the money back in the business.”

The next step was acquiring a 22,000-square-foot lot just north of the current location, in 1997, and used a portion of it to expand his parking lot.

In 2000, Mendoza’s oldest son, Jose, officially joined his father in the business and became  a manager and estimator. “I’ve actually been working here since I was in high school,” he said.

Benjamin Mendoza Jr. joined the staff in 2003 after graduating from UCSB with a major in political science and history, and is now the office manager.

“I worked with my dad through high school and during college,” Mendoza Jr. said. “And what I learned in college has helped me here, with analytical thinking, fact checking, and problem solving.”

Anthony Mendoza, the youngest son, has joined the family business part time, and is learning from the ground up, as his older siblings did.

With both of his older sons running the business as managers, it allows Benjamin Sr. more time to follow other interest, such as his mechanical shop located next door to Kelly’s, KBS Auto Care Center.

Mendoza said his technicians are I-CAR trained, six being I-CAR Platinum designated, has been Gold Class designated for more than 10 years, and is a VeriFacts VQ (Verified Quality) shop.

“We are working hard to attain the Medallion designation from Verifacts,” he said. “It’s one of the most prestigious and recognized accomplishments in the automotive repair industry.”

For the past 14 years, the shop has also had ASE certified mechanics, which Mendoza said has reduced insurance liability because a vehicle doesn’t leave the shop for mechanical repairs, and it has became a profit center.

The shop has 20 bays, five lifts, a Chief EZII and a Car-O-Liner frame machine, and sprays Axlata Chromax paint in its Italia heated downdraft booth.

“We also have a multi-metal spot welder from Pro Spot, which has allowed us to be Aluminum repair certified by Ford,” Mendoza said. “We also have multi-metal MIG welders, which allow our techs to do efficient and precise welds.”

The shop uses CCC One estimating system and ProfitNet management system, Mendoza said. “Estimators have mobile camera solutions, and we will soon be acquiring and installing tablet estimating capabilities.”

Kelly’s is a member of the Assured Performance Network, which Mendoza said helps the shop comply with OE programs and allows it be an OE-certified shop.

“We have DRPs with several insurance companies, and an on-site drive-in claims center. These relationships allow us to serve the needs of our customers, regardless of what insurance company they may have.”

Mendoza said the shop also does wholesale work for the Avis/Budget group, and fleet work for the City of Santa Ana and various insurance fleet accounts.

“Those fleet accounts have drivers all over the country, and we are able to help their customers get repairs done when they are in Orange County,” Mendoza said.

The shop is a member of the California Autobody Association (CAA), of which Mendoza Jr. was state president in 2013 and is currently Orange County Chapter president.

“CAA is very important to our business because knowledge is power,” he said. “The CAA helps body shops get the information and knowledge necessary to remain in business and succeed. The legislative work they do in Sacramento is priceless, and the meetings they hold bring great information for all members to share.

Parts & People

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