Snap Shop: Dave's Auto Body

Dec. 15, 2023
Pulling from his experience with auto shops around the world, Dave Dunn's business is more than just a repair shop; it's an oasis.

Owner: Dave Dunn

Location: Galesburg, Illinois

Staff Size: 30

Shop Size: 15,000 square feet

Average Monthly Car Count: 200 

Average Repair Order: $3,200

Annual Revenue: $7M

1. Creating an Oasis

Dunn got his start in the industry as a high school dropout working at a local auto body shop, and within a few years, began renting the building he now operates out of and opened his own body shop. 46 years and many renovations later, it’s unrecognizable from when it first began.

Today, a white, Dryvit finish can be seen on the exterior of the facility. Dunn has added additional buildings for paint and detail work onto the original structure to accommodate different areas of work, expanding from 3,600 square feet to about 15,000 square feet.

Dunn has performed consulting work for the past 35 years and was particularly impressed with the look of palm trees during his time in California and Hawaii, prompting him to plant one on his own property back in Illinois.

“I like to think of that as when people come to us, they're troubled and they've had difficulty, and (it’s) kind of emblematic or symbolic of an oasis where we're gonna make the problem go away,” Dunn explains.

2. Here Because You Want to Be, Not Need to Be

One of the first things people see when they enter is the hall of fame on the wall, containing professionally shot photos of each employee, complete with their own autograph.

15 years ago, certificates and certifications were displayed, but Dunn found that customers didn’t ever notice it as much. Now, many come in just to see someone they recognize up on the wall.

Things that draw people into the store beyond the need for collision repair have been a major strategy. Alongside being a repair business, the store offers its own original hot sauce: Dave’s Gator Sauce.

The condiment is regionally renowned, with local restaurants keeping it in stock for customers. Its popularity brings people into the shop, where every visitor is offered a free bottle, and keeps the business in people’s minds even when they aren’t actively dealing with vehicle repairs.

3. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

The shop features equipment such as the Spanesi Touch, which allows for the diagnosis of problems before disassembling the vehicle.

“If something structurally was bent on the car, we need to know that upfront and not wait and discover it while we're actually repairing the car,” Dunn says.

The facility is air-conditioned with make-up air, providing fresh air in every area. Workstations are brightly lit, specifically meeting the criteria of 90-foot-candle lighting.

Every part of the facility has gray porcelain tile flooring that is consistently kept spick and span. The shop employs a full-time janitor and is equipped with a "Zamboni" that cleans floors throughout the day.

Though the shop has grown since its inception in 1976, Dunn has always placed a high value on cleanliness. 

One thing that has changed is his vision for its appearance. It’s evolved with the experience he’s gained through visiting other shops globally as a consultant, offering him a unique perspective on the variety of shop designs.

“You just piece together things you see; maybe in the East Coast, or the West Coast, or Hawaii, or Europe, or in Australia,” Dunn muses. “And there's no single answer to that. It's a collective answer, based on things I've picked up from traveling around the world.”