Snap Shop: Quality Auto Body & Glass

March 1, 2020
Take a virtual tour of a Minnesota shop with unique signage and an old-school feel.

​LOCATION: Wadena, Minn. OWNER: Gary Paavola SIZE: 5,000 square feet STAFF: 3 (2 technicians, 1 owner/painter) AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 20 AVERAGE REPAIR ORDER: $1,875 ANNUAL REVENUE: $450,000


Back in 1982, Gary Paavola briefly sold auto parts at 116 Ash Avenue NW, in tiny Wadena, Minn. Little did he know that, nearly three decades later, he would turn that facility into a collision repair shop that turns heads. 

These days, Paavola operates Quality Auto Body & Glass and uses the facility to display what some would consider contemporary art. The shop owner occasionally puts nearly 200 hours of work into creating furniture out of classic cars, like his front office’s desk—built from a 1957 Chevrolet. The automotive-inspired furniture immediately opens the eyes of visitors. 

“People come in and there’s a wow factor,” Paavola says. 


Those that drive down the main drag in Wadena (pop. 4,075) can’t help but notice Quality Auto Body & Glass’s throwback-style signage. Nearly a decade ago Paavola painted the main shop sign, then called in a nephew for assistance in creating the signage. Eventually, after investing $3,500 total in three signs, Paavola was left with signage that sticks out in the minds of passers-by. 

“I’ve always liked the retro feel,” the shop owner says. “And I wanted the signage to stand out.” 


On June 17, 2010, an EF4 tornado ripped through Wadena and more than 200 homes were severely damaged. That just happened to be the very first day that Paavola had begun remodeling a building that once was a Pepsi bottling facility. 

The storm—which featured 170 mph winds—made Paavola think long and hard about how he wanted his shop constructed. Thus, after an investment of $250,000, the building was re-sheeted with steel. 


Quality Auto Body & Glass’s staff keeps shop floor efficiency rolling along smoothly thanks to a handful of parts carts, namely adjustable, foldable models from Innovative Tools (cost: approximately $375 apiece) that can easily be stacked on each other. The shop’s staff utilizes one cart for old parts and another for new parts. 

“We want everything off the ground and convenient,” Paavola explains, “so that it can be moved back and forth and out of the way. And, that way we have everything in one location, (so) we’re not looking for things. It’s just handy to roll the cart to the car.” 


Paavola views paintless dent repair not only as a necessity these days, but also as an artform. That’s why he often schedules at least three PDR jobs on the same day, so the work can be done efficiently and precisely, in assembly-line fashion, in the shop’s wash bay. 

“To do paintless dent repair correctly you’ve got to do it all the time,” the shop owner says. “We do sublet that out, but they come to our shop so we control that.”