In what has become an increasingly disquieting trend, shop owners are reporting greater difficulty in convincing their children to carry on with the family business. This undoubtedly is a product of the difficulty repairers face these days in creating a successful operation. For many potential next-generation owners, life in a different industry is far more appealing.
Bucking this trend is the Gardella family, the father and son owners of County Line Auto Body in Howell, N.J. Far from walking away from the industry, the two generations are joining forces to revitalize a long-standing successful shop and place it on an arc that they hope can make it one of the most innovative shops in the industry.
Richard, Gary Jr. and Gary Sr. Gardella are multi-generational repairers looking to make a bigger mark in the New Jersey repair market. (IMAGES / COUNTY LINE AUTO BODY)
Knowing this family's history, it should be no surprise that sons Richard and Gary Jr. would want to stick with collision repairs. Both were practically raised in a shop.
Their father, Gary Sr., was a tech/manager at his father's collision shop, A-Z, in Staten Island, N.Y. Gardella Sr. was so involved with the running of A-Z he moved his family across the street from it for a time.
County Line generates nearly $5 million a year but is looking to bring more customers through its doors and into its lobby.
Looking to create a better life for his family, in 1980 he relocated them to central New Jersey and opened his own two-bay shop in Howell. That small shop grew into what County Line is today – a 38-bay business with 31 employees and annual revenue of almost $5 million.
Its training pedigrees are impressive. All techs are I-CAR Gold, with five holding Platinum status. Techs also are ASE-certified and certified to work on Jaguars, BMWs and Nissan GTRs. In addition, the shop offers mechanical repairs and specialty services such as headlight restoration and aluminum repair.
Richard and Gary Jr. have both worked at the shop for the last 12 years, though Gary Jr. has spent time away working on a racing career. Even then, the shop leveraged his time away into something positive as it gave Gary Sr. an opportunity to travel, tour other shops and bring back new ideas to help his own business.