Cliff’s Auto Body and Glass represents new chapter in family business
ADRIAN -- Dent Works has a new name: Cliff's Auto Body and Glass. The Adrian repair shop has a new owner and different sign, and customers are asked to enter through a different door than before. But other than that, the nuts and bolts of the bus...
ADRIAN - Dent Works has a new name: Cliff’s Auto Body and Glass.
The Adrian repair shop has a new owner and different sign, and customers are asked to enter through a different door than before. But other than that, the nuts and bolts of the business are exactly the same.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, in this shop, there’s a lot of broken things, and a whole lot of fixing going on.
Steve Lynn, who has run the shop for the better part of four decades, retired and handed it over to his nephew, Cliff, in May.
Steve and Cliff followed a similar route on their journey to the auto body industry. They grew up in the same room in the same house on the same farm located south of Adrian - separated only by a few decades.
They both learned to work on cars at a young age. Cliff got his experience working on a dirt race car driven by his mother, Shellie, who was a popular racer in the Worthington area. Years later, he got his hands dirty working on his own race cars and was hired at Dent Works in 2007.
Steve got his training at a high school vocational program in Luverne. After a few years working at an auto body shop in Worthington, he started the store as L&H Body Shop along with Gary Hoffer in 1980. Steve took full control in 2005, renamed it, expanded the shop and introduced paintless dent repair.
“That really expanded my customer base out to the surrounding communities, even out of state,” Steve said. “If they had a dent, a deer accident, hail damage, they’d come back here and have it repaired.”
Having worked on thousands of cars, Steve has seen everything. That includes the time when a customer came in needing repairs to their windshield - which had a deer’s antler stuck in it.
When the time was right to retire, Steve knew he had a great successor waiting in the wings.
“Being in this business for 39 years, I just felt like it was time to pass the torch to Cliff,” Steve said. “He was my number one go-to guy. When I was out on the road repairing, he was here working at the shop, which gave him a good start to do office work and deal with customers and insurance companies.”
Steve will continue to do some repairs for dealerships and shops as Dent Works.
Cliff, meanwhile, is now firmly planted in the driver’s seat. It’s gone smoothly so far, but he’s learned that managing the shop and doing his own repairs is a difficult balance at times. Last week, Cliff found himself spending four hours to replace a bumper on a Chrysler PT Cruiser - typically a 30-minute job - as a constant flurry of phone calls from customers and insurance adjusters provided plenty of distraction.
“I’d rather be on the floor, doing the work,” Cliff said. “I find myself doing the office stuff after hours and try to be on the floor doing the repairs during business hours.”
Dent Works got a lot of positive feedback in part because Steve made sure to clean the outside and inside of vehicles he worked on, even leaving the wheels squeaky clean and vacuuming crumbs off of the seats.
“Especially when we put a new bumper on, I can’t stand letting a vehicle go where there’s one clean part of the car and the rest goes on dirt,” Steve said. “That drives me insane.”
Steve has long relied on word-of-mouth referrals to promote his business. When a hailstorm hit Sioux Falls, S.D. a few years ago and the local shops were occupied, Dent Works got new customers, who then turned into more customers when they told their friends.
“It’s like a domino effect,” Steve said. “There’s no better advertising than customer satisfaction.”
Cliff has continued that strategy and, so far, he’s happy with the results.
“Right now I've got myself and two technicians, and there's not a time of day when any of us are standing around looking for something to do,” Cliff said. “The customer base has been incredibly supportive. Even with the change of ownership, they continually come back.”