“Make integrity your first priority,” said Dave Illg, owner of Dave Illg’s Collision Repair Center in Nashua, NH. “Charge for what you do, don’t charge for what you don’t do, treat everyone with respect and your shop can’t help but be successful.”
Sage words for sure, from a man who learned through some extreme strife and struggle. Lesser men would have bailed out of the bad situation Illg found himself mired in a few years ago.
You might say the body business is in Illg’s blood. In 1977, at 19 years old, Illg went to work at a shop partially owned by a family member. An uncle, John Illg, was the “I” in BIG&R Auto Body (Belowski, Illg, Gurette and Rantilla), one of the oldest, largest and most respected shops in the city. The shop had been in business since the early 1950s in a large purpose-built building right off one of the city’s main thoroughfares. All of the principal owners had worked in dealer body shops prior and thought they could do a better job as an independent shop. At one point, in the days before companies such as Garmat, Accudraft and such, Dave Illg’s father, Victor Illg, built the shop’s two spray booths---out of 2X4’s and drywall, high-tech for their time.
For the next eight years, despite being a relative of one of the owners, Dave Illg worked in the shop as a regular employee learning the trade and doing quality work. He became adept with his pick-hammers and dollies … and lead filler. Despite plastic filler being introduced in the mid-1950s, the body men at BIG&R used body lead right up until the late ‘70s.
Around 1985, there was some upheaval amongst the owners. Of the four original owners, two were still active in the business, with one running the shop and the other running the front end. Neither saw eye-to-eye with the other. The man running the shop felt the entire operation could be run “from the hood of a car,” meaning there was little concern for office procedures, keeping records and the like. The man running the front end, of course, had different ideas. Ultimately, the “front-end” man left, leaving a hole. Dave Illg was named General Manager and filled the position.