Santa Monica shop walks customers through repairs from options to vehicle updates
Santa Monica-Calif.—The beachfront community of Santa Monica has the highest population density and average income of any city in California, which are among the reasons Stanley Krant, owner of Santa Monica Body Craft, said he purchased the business in 2011 from its previous owners who were looking to sell.
“Because of the population density, the number of vehicles in the area is higher than the average, so opportunities in the collision business are good,” he said. “But there’s also a lot of competition.”
Krant, who was born in Amsterdam and moved to the U.S. when he was 13, said his collision experience started at Motors Insurance Corp. (MIC), which is owned by GM, as a mechanical and physical damage adjuster and worked his way up to manager for a number of local body shops, earning I-CAR designation and ASE cerification along the way.
To be successful, Krant knew his shop would have to stand out from the competition in every way possible – starting by repainting the outside of the building bright orange – and he was confident that with the right team, the right equipment, and a “customer-centric” business philosophy, he could do it.
“We make the customer part of the repair process by explaining to them what repairs are needed and if it’s a customer-pay job, offering multiple choices to repair it,” he said. “If it’s an insurance job, of course, everything is covered.”
Krant also implemented an “open door policy,” where customers can actually go see the repair process and he said a fair share of his customers do that.
“We also send customers updates, through CCC One. Every estimate has a code so the owner of the vehicle can go online and see the status of the repair and other information.”
Equipment includes Welbilt and Nova Verta spray booths, a Chief EZ-Liner and two Car Bench Gulliver frame machines, and a Chief Genesis II measuring system.
“I really like the Car Bench system because the crossbeams are universal, they roll easily into place, easily secure with quick-lock couplers, and the scissor lift allows us to work on the car while it’s on the lift.”
Krant purchased a hydraulic mobile hoist, a Pro-Spot i4 Inverter Resistance Spot Welder, Miller and ESAB mig welders, and a Polyvance 6085-C Nitro Fuzer welding system.
“I bought the i4, which isn’t a ‘smart welder’ like the i5, but I have smart techs who know how to program it and the head is much lighter and easier to handle than the i5,” he said.
“The Polyvance Nitro Fuzer, which I purchased from my Polyvance rep, Jose Heded, is already paying for itself by allowing us to make plastic repairs in a fraction of the time it takes with two-part adhesives,” he said, “including bumper tabs, mounting holes, grille bars, high-stress areas, flexible tabs, fender liners, and slots that are impossible to repair with adhesives.”
Krant said the Nitro Fuzer allows him keep profits in the shop because there’s no need to replace bumpers, headlights, and other plastic parts that normally would have to be thrown out.
“About 25 percent of a shop’s business is customer-pay,” he said. “So we’re able to save customers money on small hits and they are more likely to return to us for the big hits.”
The shop has several ASE certified techs, is in the process of becoming I-CAR Gold recognized, and sprays PPG Envirobase paint, which they buy from Martin Auto Color, whose team provides in-shop training when new products come out.
“We buy collision parts from a number of vendors including Guaranty Chevrolet, Glenn E. Thomas Dodge, and Galpin Motors, who is our largest supplier,” he said.
The shop has DRPs with several companies that Krant says “puts the customer first,” including Wawanesa, USAA, California Casualty, Kemper, and AIG,and has drive-in claims service for Wawanesa and USAA. He also does all pre-and post-repair scans, which the insurance companies pay for.
Currently the 12,000-square-foot shop has 17 employees, with an average repair order of $2,300 to $2,500, and repairs about 100 cars a month – both up about 15 percent over 2015.
Krant said the business has continued to grow because of its DRP relationships, word-of-mouth referrals, repeat business, and his investment in new tools for today’s vehicles, which gives him the ability to repair all types of vehicles.
“Making people part of the repair process is very important, he said. “Our mission is to do what’s best for the car and the customer and we listen to them.”