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Southern Auto Body, Barnes Auto Body and Southern Classics
❱❱ Locations: Southern Auto Body, Barnes Auto Body and Southern Classics: Fredericksburg and Stafford, Virginia
❱❱ Employees: 42
❱❱ Square Footage: Southern Auto Body – 29,000 square feet; Barnes Auto Body – 7,000 square feet; Southern Classics (restoration shop) – 7,000 square feet
❱❱ Mopar® Parts Dealer: Safford Chrysler Jeep® Dodge of Fredericksburg
Southern Auto Body was started in 1988 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Two partners began their endeavor in a thousand-square-foot shop with only one other employee. They didn’t do much business that year, but they knew how to work hard. “Jerry (Evans) mentored me, he took me in,” says Southern Auto Body Owner Olaf Herrick on his former partner who was 20 years older than him when they opened their doors to business. “He’s the one who had a tremendous amount of body shop experience. He taught me to invest in people and follow old-fashioned values.” The company eventually grew to include Barnes Auto Body and the Southern Classics restoration shop, which just opened this summer. Evans retired in 2007.
Beliefs and Benies
Old-fashioned values and lots of benefits, like health insurance, a 401k and life insurance, keep the employees happy at Southern Auto Body and the other two shops. About half the employees have been with the company more than 10 years and a handful have 15 and 20 years under their belts. “People are very important to me,” says Herrick. “I take care of my employees and they take good care of my customers.” Herrick says he trains employees and promotes from within.
The Personal Touch
“A lot of our customers have been with us for many, many years,” says Herrick. “They see the same faces when they walk in the door, we know their names.” And they have the opportunity to go directly to the top if they have a question. “Usually people are very insulated at the very high levels, so the difference here is, if you walk in the door and ask to talk to the owner, I walk right out and talk to you. We try to live by old-school morals and principles, and pride in workmanship.”
Herrick attributes some of his success to keeping his equipment up to date. “I’m a big supporter of new technologies,” says Herrick. “I try to make sure that we have state-of-the-art equipment, that we’re using the best paints and products, and that we’re training employees to fix the cars as technologies evolve. This is the time when you want to be on top of your game, so we’re constantly reinvesting in the company. My advice to people is you really have to be engaged.”