Snap Shop: Paul Ries and Sons

July 29, 2019
Take a virtual tour of a Chicago shop that’s simultaneously historic and rather trendy.

​PAUL RIES AND SONS LOCATION: CHICAGO OWNER: NICK ZEMAN SIZE: 10,000 SQUARE FEET STAFF: 11 AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 60 ANNUAL REVENUE: $2.4 MILLION

SLEEK SHOP INTERIOR

The Paul Ries and Sons collision repair business has been a Chicagoland staple since 1913. So, when Nick Zeman took over ownership of the company’s new location, he sought a look that, while calling on the business’ past, also featured modern, fashionable elements.

Zeman, whose location opened in October 2018, wanted his shop’s front area to quickly put clients at ease. He purchased trendy, modern furniture by using a designer from nearby Faux Design Studio—which is rather easy to fund for, when your business quickly produces sales of $200,000 per month. 

“It’s a retro-modern look,” Zeman says of his shop’s entrance. “Customers say, ‘I feel like I’m waiting at a day spa.’”

SELLING COMPANY HISTORY

A massive, 11x4-foot photo in the shop’s interior emphasizes the Chicago business’s rich history. The photo, from the original Ries and Sons location’s early days in 1913, was recently digitally enhanced at a print shop and turned into wallpaper.

Zeman—a third generation owner of Ries & Sons, whose father, Joe, owns the original shop location—is prideful of the 106-year-old business, and notes that older customers often take note of the new shop’s historical photos.

SHOP FLOOR  

Zeman got his start in collision repair by working at his grandfather’s shop when he was 12 years old. Yet, he also made a point to eventually branch out and work at all types of facilities within the industry. Zeman tried to learn from his stints working at other shops, and eventually implement some of his previous employers’ procedures at his own facility.

Because of that, when you visit the new Chicago facility’s shop floor, you’ll notice a layout similar to that seen at high-volume MSOs. Zeman’s shop floor features a triple lane layout in which work flows in a circular motion, which has helped improve cycle times over the past year (the shop currently boasts a 3.9-day cycle time for non-driveable vehicles).

EFFICIENT PAINT AREA

At the new Ries and Sons location, the head painter produces almost 150 labor hours per week, despite being relatively green with regard to experience. That painter gets a major assist, Zeman says, from a roughly 10-year-old Blowtherm paint booth (a product that often costs five figures) in which the owner recently invested. And painters meticulously maintain the booth, cleaning it at least weekly.   

Zeman did exhaustive research before buying a used, albeit unblemished booth from a motivated seller, and says, “My philosophy is buying the best of the best equipment, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be brand new. I found this booth [and] keep it as clean as possible to minimize buffing.”

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