Wednesday, 05 August 2015 21:47

Family Touch Makes Lawrence Auto Body in Livingston County, MI A Favorite

Lawrence Auto Body isn’t the kind of place folks ever hope to visit.

But they’re glad they did.

The Brighton collision shop is again a People’s Choice Award winner, marking the fourth time in the past five years — and 14th time in the past 15 years — it has claimed the honor of Best Auto Collision Shop (Nondealer).

For owner Kate Lawrence, success comes down to two things: trust and quality.

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Mike Lawrence installs weather seal to a replacement hood on a 2014 Ford Escape in a bay of Lawrence Auto Body. The shop was honored a People’s Choice Award, this being the 14th win of the past 15 years.

Gillis Benedict/Livingston Daily

 

“We have built strong relationships with our customers, they come back generation after generation,” she said.

Because it’s small, the company can provide personal service, office manager Monica Winberg said. That includes calling people to let them know their cars are ready to handing them their keys in person.

“It's the personal touch,” Winberg said.

It’s not an award the company takes lightly.

“We know there are many, many auto shops in Livingston County,” Lawrence said.

But she also knows a little something about constituent service. Lawrence served eight years as Brighton mayor between 1999-2009 and is currently a county commissioner.

The commitment to quality extends not just to the parts themselves, but to the way they are installed.

“When we have to paint around a window, we take the window out. We don’t just tape it off,” said Kate Lawrence’s son, Mike Lawrence, who runs the back shop.

The shop area also features heated floors, rapidly defrosting even the most snow-covered vehicles for faster service.

Operating since 1977 at the same location, the business underwent a major renovation in 2001.

It added a brick fronts along with a bay window, earning a beautification award from the city in the process.

“We don’t look like an auto shop, and we don’t want to look like an auto shop,” Kate Lawrence said.

If anything, the business at 306 W. Grand River Ave. in Brighton looks like a home — albeit one with an unusually large garage.

But that’s appropriate for a family-owned business.

Kate Lawrence’s husband, Larry Lawrence, founded the business after working several years as an auto-body painter. He learned the trade at Cars and Concepts, an auto-customizing company owned by onetime U.S. Rep. Dick Chrysler.

There, he received several high-profile assignments, including painting the car of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford.

“But he always wanted his own business,” his wife said.

Back then, it was a one-man shop.

“When he’d have a major painting job, he’d lock the door and put out a sign saying ‘Come back in two hours,’” Kate Lawrence added.

She was on board from the start, tending books after completing her standard 9-to-5 insurance industry job.

The couple married in 1980, raising three sons.

Though Larry Lawrence retired a few years ago, the business will remain in family hands for years to come.

“You could have an auto shop almost anywhere, but we love Brighton and we love being here — right on the main drag,” Kate Lawrence said.

Their customers wouldn’t have it any other way.

We would like to thank Livingston Daily for reprint permission.

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