Stella Collision Services opened after War World II ended, when Chris Stella’s father returned from the Pacific Theater. After working at a couple of different auto body repair shops, he built the original structure with his brother and other people from the neighborhood, finally opening in 1947.
“We don’t know the exact date in 1947, but I think it was April,” Chris said. “So actually, we are right about at the 70-year mark exactly.”
Chris and his wife, Gina, took over the business on April 27, 1984.
Growing up next to his father’s shop, Chris said his whole life was involved there. He would help with the tow calls during the night, and when his father turned 65 and wanted to retire, it was a “no-brainer” to buy the business.
When Chris and Gina took over, there was no paint booth or frame equipment.
Now Stella Collision is using environmentally friendly water-based paints. What used to take over an hour for an estimate now only takes 10 minutes.
“Everything is done (now) with the help of a computer,” Chris said. “Obviously we are still hands-on when we repair something; the process is still very similar.”
While the business itself closes at 5 p.m., the tow service is 24-hours. He said there were days they are awake almost around the clock.
Chris said they like this time of year because with the snow starting to melt away, business starts to calm down slightly.
Although Stella Collision gets a lot of business from crashes, it also has a lot of business from repeat customers.
“A lot of people who were with my dad back in the day continued on with us and now their families continue coming to us,” Chris said. “We’re getting the grandchildren now — so a lot of repeat business I think. When you are in business since 1947, I think people realize you must be pretty good at what you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be there that long.”
He said as a business, Stella Collision tries the best it can do. He said it drives him crazy when he can’t get something right, and if they can’t do it, they’ll find someone who can.
One of the biggest misconceptions Chris says he struggles with as an auto repair mechanic is people assuming he — and other auto repair mechanics — are out to get them.
“We get a bad rep because people think we are repairing your car and doing it haphazardly or shoddy,” he said, adding that when he had it said to him he wasn’t sure how to respond.
While the couple have nobody in the family to take over the business, they said they would like to keep it as an independent auto repair shop for as long as possible.
“We would love to see it remain an independent business,” Gina said.
For the immediate future, the couple is toying with the idea of becoming a “one-stop” shop for auto repair.
Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday, Stella Collision Service is located at 8375 E. Main Road in Le Roy. For more information, call (585) 768-7370.
We would like to thank The Daily News for reprint permission.