SHOP STATS: TNT Auto Body and Service Location: Glade Hill, Virginia Operator: Tara and Tim Wall Average Monthly Car Count:58 Staff Size:14 Shop Size: 10,000 square feet DRPs: 0 Annual Revenue: $1.1 million
1. Rising Up From Humble Beginnings
It’s no exaggeration to say Tim Wall started his career in the collision repair business from humble beginnings. He graduated high school in 1992, and while attending school completed its auto body program. After graduating, he worked at a few dealerships before getting the opportunity to work as a technician at Advanced Collision in Attica, New York, where the shop’s owner, Jim Cooley, mentored and trained him. Wall eventually became what he describes as a “working manager.”
In 2001, Wall and his wife, Tara, made a fateful decision to attend a two-year bible college in Franklin College, Virginia, where he worked side jobs to make ends meet until the two graduated.
“I had a homemade tent made out of 2x4s and plastic that was inside a barn that I rented from a guy. I’d do just about everything from painting tractors to fixing farm equipment,” he says. “Back then, I was still figuring out what I wanted to do as a career, but I’d always had an interest in doing collision work. I remember that I had a cardboard box that would hold two gallons of primer, and I had a few other hand tools in there and that was my toolbox.”
In 2002, the Walls rented a body shop that was part of a larger salvage repair business. The 1,200-square-feet shop could fit approximately four cars at a time and housed a frame machine and a homemade paint booth that was basically a cinder block room with an overhead door, which Wall jokes was a huge upgrade from his tent.
“We eventually built a little office on the side of it, and spent the next six years there,” he says. “We had DRPs there for State Farm and AllState, and got started in the business and really worked hard to build our clientele.”
While Tim ran the shop, Tara took control of the business side, handling finances, payroll, taxes, etc. Wall notes that the TNT name stands for Tara and Tim, making sure to add that the first ‘T’ in the name stands for Tara, not Tim.
2. A Groundbreaking Worth the Wait
In 2008, the Walls built a new facility directly on three acres across the street from the building they’d been working in. When deciding to build, Tim says he wanted to keep the shop small, but it was Tara who encouraged him to increase the shop’s size.
The process wasn’t an easy one, and Tim says the first time he went to a local bank looking for a loan, he was in for a surprise. “I went in there looking to borrow a few hundred thousand dollars and I couldn’t even put up a building for collateral, and I basically got laughed out of the bank,” he says.
A few months later, Wall went back to the same bank with a solid business plan in hand, and this time he and Tara’s prayers were answered when the loan was approved. When the family had its grand opening, the shop was 6,000 square feet. Wall says sales tripled the first year in the new facility. Since then, they’ve added on twice to the building, bringing the current total to 10,000 square feet.
The pair had their logo redesigned, and their distinctive green and white color scheme was the result of their use of waterborne paint and its benefits to the environment, compared to solvent-based paints.
“We were definitely one of the first shops in our area that switched to that type of paint, and I tell everyone it’s not lime green and it’s not neon green, it’s TNT green,” he says.
The front of the shop is designed to be customer friendly, with plenty of comfortable seating, a fireplace and entertainment options for visitors. Next to the customer area is a counter with two workstations for the shop’s CSRs.
The shop floor is designed with an efficient workflow in mind, where cars come through one of two stalls, which are located back-to-back. Essentially, the design is set up like an assembly line, with different stations for measuring, disassembly, etc.
“We have it set up so the cars come through and then drive straight out; it’s designed so you don’t have to back a car out,” he says.
3. A Family Business
The Walls are the proud parents of seven children, two of whom have gotten heavily involved in the business.
Wall spends a lot of his time now working on a salvage yard he recently purchased, and has passed on a lot of the day-to-day body shop responsibilities onto his son, Andrew. His daughter Abby is focusing her time learning about the salvage business.
“To be honest, if Andrew didn’t have so much interest in the body shop side of the business, I might be looking for a buyer,” he says. “But he really wants to run with the shop so it’s great to see my children diving head-first into the business, and I love the fact that we truly have a family-run business.”