Running a Shop

Snap Shop: Valley Auto Body

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​LOCATION: Wasilla, Alaska OWNER: Destry Harmon SIZE: 11,000 square feet STAFF: 9 AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 40 ANNUAL REVENUE: $1.3 MILLION

1. BIG-TIME BRANDING

Destry Harmon wants potential customers to see his body shop for long stretches of Alaska’s Parks Highway, which runs near his facility. That’s why Harmon, Valley Auto Body’s owner since 1989, recently had his business’s red-and-white logo updated on everything from inclosed trailers to loaner vehicles to company trucks. It also appears above the shop’s custom awning.

According to Harmon, the consistent use of the business’s logo helps personalize its brand and keeps it top of mind of townsfolk in Wasilla for when they require Valley’s services.

2. GOING THE EXTRA MILE  

Harmon is a prideful business owner who dreams of someday passing on his business to his son, Cameron, 28, who just entered his ninth year painting at the shop. And Harmon’s pride extends to every service offered by the body shop. For example, Valley employees utilize a fleet of four vehicles dedicated to providing pick-up and delivery for customers, driving as far as 80 miles roundtrip.

Harmon’s shop also has a pair of dedicated parts catering vehicles, and the shop owner says his employees will drive as far away as Fairbanks—a 300-mile trip—to pick up parts.

“I just bend over backward for the customer,” Harmon notes. “We cater to any of their needs.”

3. SUPREMELY EFFICIENT PAINT BOOTH

The facility boasts a 98 percent CSI score, due in part to the efficiency of its shop floor. And that efficiency is greatly aided by a climate-controlled, Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) drive-thru paint booth.

“It’s state of the art,” Harmon says of the paint booth. “It helps dry the paint and makes production a lot faster, to where we can paint three to four cars a day. Cars are in the booth at least 45 minutes, then you’ve got your cycle time for baking and usually it’s about 45 minutes, [before] a cool-down cycle. So, you’re looking at roughly 3 hours per vehicle.”

4. THE HEAT IS ON

Winter can create massive challenges in Wasilla, which is located about 45 miles north of Anchorage.

“It’s tough, if you get a car all iced up,” Harmon notes. “The cars take a little longer to start working on; you’ve got to thaw them out—it can take up to half a day on some of them.”

That’s why, a couple years ago, Harmon saw fit to equip Valley Auto Body with a heated floor that features a boiler system—a setup, he says, “heats the car up a little faster than the air” and is “nice for employees, when they’ve got to lay on the floor.”

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