Collision repair shop soars with approach to equipment, innovation and education

May 7, 2018
Pointing out that “teamwork begins with a positive and healthy work environment,” the operation is kept clean and organized amid a mindset of constant innovation.

Airport Road Auto Body consistently takes flight with the latest in collision repair technologies and techniques.

“We are a state-of-the-art facility, providing high quality workmanship,” says owner Tony Cavallaro Sr.

At a Glance:
Airport Road Auto Body Inc.
Hartford, Conn.
Tony Cavallaro Sr.
No. of shops
Years in business
No. of employees
No. of DRPs
Square footage of shop
Average repair order
5 days
Average cycle time
Average weekly volume
Paint Supplier
Frame machines used
Estimating sytem used

Having recently relocated to a 34,000 sq-ft. structure that previously housed a manufacturing plant for industrial electrical products, “We built the shop with the recommendations and feedback of some of our employees so that they can work more efficiently and effectively. I also provide continuous training to our employees so that they are provided with the knowledge they need to stay up to date on vehicle repairs and the industry.”

Pointing out that “teamwork begins with a positive and healthy work environment,” the operation is kept clean and organized amid a mindset of constant innovation.

It is the only Connecticut body shop certified to conduct aluminum repairs on Cadillacs, and is one of just two shops in the state carrying OEM certifications from Tesla, Jaguar and Range Rover. Volkswagen and BMW authorizations have been obtained as well.

“It’s been worth it,” Tony Sr. remarks, reflecting on the steady investments in education and equipment that he has been pursuing since establishing the business in 1983.

Tony Cavallaro Sr. and Tony Cavallaro Jr.

Starting out at age 23 with a staff of four and a lot of ambition, “It was at this time I began to teach myself how to improve my management skills and how to become more efficient in this business. My wife Rita, who was my girlfriend at the time, was alongside me from Day One, and together through trial and error we learned how to make this operation grow and prosper.”

Rita handles the bookkeeping and administrative tasks while son Tony Jr. assists with production as he prepares to eventually assume ownership.

“If he ever retires,” muses Tony Jr., noting his dad’s zeal grounded with an enthusiastic approach to navigating the turbulence and challenges that come with the territory of running a thriving business.

In December, the Cavallaro clan moved into its new facility over on Locust Street in historic Hartford, the Nutmeg State’s capital city, also known as the “Insurance Capital of the World” for its prominent presence of insurer headquarters buildings that dominate the skyline.

At present, Airport Road Auto Body is rebranding itself as Airport Auto, with Tony Jr. explaining that the area’s residents experience little confusion over the new Locust Street address. “Our brand is strong and our customer base is 30-to-34-years-deep,” he says. “We’re about a mile from the old location. The exit off the freeway is the same – it’s the Airport Road exit.”

When Tony Jr. joined the company in 2013, according to Tony Sr., “He brought with him new, fresher ideas and the drive needed to move forward towards growth. With that drive and determination, we have grown our business, and we felt we needed to expand.”

And what people now find upon entering differs considerably from what one might expect to see at a collision repair facility. “A lot of thought was put into making our lobby not look like a typical body shop, but more of a hotel reception area feel. We want all of our customers to feel welcome,” says Tony Sr.

An industry-leading production array greets visitors venturing back to the shop floor. “This expansion has provided us with ability to be more efficient and have the capability to handle higher volume; built with layout and design in mind, our repair process flows through each department smoothly,” he says.

Among the highlights is one of the largest installations of a REVO Accelerated Curing System paired with Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) equipment:

  • Two 30-foot long Ultra XD downdraft paint booths
  • Two Ultra XR dual-bay Closed-Top Open-Front (CTOF) booths that feature two side-load rail and dolly systems, along with a REVO Speed that can run on an integrated rail system through all four bays
  • An Ultra XD Paint Mix Room
  • A Rapid mobile system on wheels (MC2) that can be used throughout the shop

“GFS did a phenomenal job,” Tony Sr. reports, providing engineering, design and technical support throughout the project.

The end result is a specialized, highly productive paint system designed to have A and B paint lines to increase the flow of vehicles and maximize production. It is coupled with integrated “fast lane” capability in the middle prep areas that utilize state-of-the-art REVO Speed technology.

Troy Volbrecht, a GFS automotive refinish territory manager, recounts numerous collaborative conference calls among the sales, distribution and engineering personnel, adding that the building’s back wall had to be knocked out and an addition constructed to make room for the new paint department.

“All involved worked together to finalize the shop drawings, make sure all the equipment was up to local codes and create custom engineering to ensure that the REVO Speed could travel seamlessly through all four of the CTOF’s bays,” says Volbrecht.

GFS distributor Rob Mercier of Collision Center Design was especially instrumental in facilitating the installation. “Rob made many trips to the customer’s site. He not only helped to develop the shop drawings, layouts and CAD drawings, but he dealt with any issues that cropped up,” said Volbrecht. “He worked with the customer and GFS to finalize the engineering and make any necessary adjustments.”

After the installation was completed, Mercier and Joe Demaske, a technical advisor and trainer with GFS, conducted onsite REVO training sessions with the shop’s staffers.

Moving and growing

The Cavallaros are proud of what they’ve accomplished and they endeavor to deliver transparency to patrons who may still be rattled and reeling from being in a crash. “When it comes to servicing customers, we make sure that we walk them through the auto body repair process from beginning to end, handling all aspects of the insurance claim,” says Tony Sr.

The company has no Direct Repair Program (DRP) affiliations, nor does it want any. “We repair vehicles to OEM specifications,” he declares, “not insurance company specifications.”

That said, “Being in the business for so many years, we have maintained good working relationships with many insurance adjusters and companies, from which this relationship is built on trust in how we repair our vehicles and the quality service we provide. We also believe in providing the best in repairing our customers’ vehicles by not using any aftermarket parts on any repairs: We restore all vehicles to pre-accident condition.”

Honesty with everyone they deal with is a key component throughout the shop.

“I have always been very honest with our customers, and I instill that same honesty in our service writers and our employees. We have been in business for 35 years and this has been a priority for us,” Tony Sr. says. “We strive to provide outstanding customer service. We believe in building good relationships with our customers and make them feel comfortable leaving their vehicles with us to repair.”

He goes on to emphasize that “the best marketing tool we have is word of mouth. When our customers are satisfied, that is the all the marketing we need to keep business moving and growing.”

Yet Tony Sr. is quick to credit Lucy Cavallaro for what he and his family have achieved. “It was my mother who instilled the value in me that hard work pays off.”

His career in auto repair dates back to a high school shop class and mentoring provided by the late Clary Rome. “It was then that I realized that I loved the satisfaction I received from taking a damaged vehicle and making it look new again. He encouraged me to continue with my training and I got a job at a local body shop that I worked for part-time,” he recalls.

“It was during this time, at the age of 20, that I would fix cars in my parents’ garage for friends, neighbors and family. With the drive to succeed, I was able to purchase a small building on Airport Road with the help of family – and that is where this all began.”

About the Author

James Guyette

James E. Guyette is a long-time contributing editor to Aftermarket Business World, ABRN and Motor Age magazines.

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