Editor’s note: This is one story in a series about local businesses in the City of Fairborn. This feature puts a face to the names of those that have been part of the community for many years – some of those best-kept secrets.
FAIRBORN – Ed Collins grew up, graduated and later started an Auto Repair Shop in Fairborn called C & H Auto Body Repair. After he grew up, married and raised his kids in the area, he decided Fairborn was where his roots run deepest, so why not give back with a business that helps people in the community.
His shop has provided a living for his family and college education for his kids. Collins’ wife Doni has worked with him for about eight years now. However, Ed will laugh and explain that she is the boss no matter what, and he is blessed. They wouldn’t get to see much of each other as his schedule is often demanding, so together they feel that they are a great team.
Collins started the shop in 1973 with his brother and cousin, but had other jobs so he ran the shop mostly by himself in Fairborn behind Goodyear in an alley by the cemetery. Later his cousin and brother left and stayed out for about 10 years, then his brother returned and worked with Ed about 20 years. The amount of business they saw called for an expansion; they never shut down, worked around the clock with two shifts and never turning the radio or the lights off. He bought the current location on Broad Street in 1996, where he went from 1,500 square feet to 10,000 square feet.
Most of his work comes from word-of-mouth and referrals by insurance companies. However, Collins still sees some of his earlier customers. One of his very first customers passed away, but his son will come to Collins for his car work. Collins said the son told him, “If it was good enough for my dad, then I want to stick with quality work too.”
Not all shops are included in an insurance program. The only way to get on the insurance program is to be a top quality shop with proper certifications and specific equipment to do the job right. Insurance companies hold these shops to high standards, and not only does C&H Carstar guarantees the work, but the insurance company covers customers as well. Clients are never sent by an insurance company because the shop is cheaper; instead they are sent by insurance companies because the shop has the capability to do the job right, giving them a vehicle that is safe.
Ed has programs that are costly for research, such as the estimating system they use, which is $1,000 monthly computer service, in addition to management, data, technology information on every vehicle and manufacture-original specification they need to know what the makers allows to weld a repair, etc.
“We do ongoing training to keep up on all the new automotives and their components,” Collins said. “An example was the aluminum trucks are different than the older steel so welding has different specs, air bags are all over different vehicles.”
As the newer automotives come out with changes, the shop has to add equipment to be able to repair the vehicles properly. Training and courses are an ongoing expense, but are needed by their 11 employees.
Ed says he has searched over 42 years and feels like he has the best techs in the country right here in his shop. He tells his employees and techs they are family.
“In this car shop, you need to make sure that the work is done so they are riding safe,” Collins said. “We are not just there to fix the vehicle, but to get to know the customer and help them.”
He feels that when people leave his shop, they are educated on what, why and how, so they feel involved in the repair and getting the job done right.
They joined Carstar in 2007, and changed their name to C&H Carstar Auto Body Repair as is a franchise they joined for the betterment of his clients. Collins said Carstar is very particular about who they allow in their program. Since joining, he feels they can offer better warranties, technology and more information, as they are tied in with over 400 stores, repairs and competitive pricing. They not only offer local warranties, but include nationwide which helps the military clients who are transit across the nation.
“We are held to very high standards, and strict guidelines with interviewing old customers and vendors to see how clients were treated and repairs are done,” he said.
The shop participates in local charity events, which is handled by Doni.
“We have a family business and that is what Fairborn is about – small town families serving the community in all kinds of jobs supplying the growing needs of the people,” he said. “Businesses with a good reputation, who can be trusted to serve the people taking pride in what they do. This is why the City of Fairborn is like no other; we are proud to be a part of the community, the city and businesses working together for the betterment of the people living here.”
Asked if retirement is in the near future and he said that he loves his work and wants to keep going .
The shop recently celebrated its 43 anniversary. However, his retirement is not in the near future. He is upgrading the outside of the building to spruce it up to get the business more appealing.
JoAnn Collins is a long-time resident of Fairborn and guest writer for the Herald.