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Saturday, 29 March 2014 00:00

St. Augustine Family Struggles to Recover From Complete Loss of Shop in Fire, Cause Officially Undetermined But Source of Fire Was Not Near Flammable Materials

Abe Chatila has opened a new tire and automotive repair business, Complete Automotive and Tire, on U.S. 1, north of St. Augustine, FL, after his auto body repair business, Complete Collision, was destroyed in a fire in January 2014. The Chatila family is used to making adjustments in the business world, and they might be dealing with their biggest one yet right now, according to Peter Willott, writing at

Fixtures of the automotive business in St. Augustine, the Chatilas are trying hard to recover from the loss of their collision repair center off State Road 207. The body shop was completely destroyed by a fire that started just before midnight on January 20, 2014.


“Everything that was there is gone,” said Abe Chatila, one of three brothers who work at the family-owned businesses Complete Collision and Complete Automotive and Tire.

“It was a super old building. It wasn’t so much the building (that was lost) but what was inside.”

The building contained all the tools of the trade as well as several cars that had been purchased to be fixed up and resold. Many of items lost from inside the building were either not covered by the insurance policy or under-covered so that they cannot all be replaced.

Chatila said he got a text in the middle of the night from his brother that there was a fire at the body shop.

He lives on Anastasia Island and rushed to the site. Driving over the State Road 312 bridge, Chatila could already grasp the seriousness of the damage by looking in the direction of the shop.

“It was just a glow and smoke everywhere,” Chatila said. “There was nothing that was salvageable.”

After investigations by the fire marshal and insurance adjuster, Chatila said the cause of the fire was declared officially as undetermined. But because it started in an area where there were no flammable materials, there is suspicion that it was arson—whether accidental or intentional.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. There were no injuries, which was the good part. But the losses were above the level that insurance will cover, Chatila said, which is the bad part. Chatila said he isn’t sure if the family will ever reopen the collision repair side of the business, but the site of the fire is also the location of the towing business, which operated as part of Complete Collision. The towing service, which was purchased from Fulkerson Towing, remains a viable business. Neither of the two trucks were damaged by the fire.

Working with brothers Mohammad and Abdul and father Riad, Chatila helps run Complete Automotive and Tire on U.S. 1 North. That property was leased shortly before the fire destroyed the body shop. In fact, it hadn’t even opened its doors when the fire occurred.

“The idea was to have both businesses running (together),” Chatila said. “The body shop is totally gone for now.”

What hasn’t ended is the ambition of the family. While working to establish a customer base at the tire/repair shop, Chatila and his family are ready to start a new venture.

The family was granted approval for used car sales by the city Planning and Zoning Board at the northern section of the property where the repair shop sits.

Moving from one aspect of the automotive industry to the next is what they’ve always done. Chatila said he remembers working with his dad as a child when Riad owned Anastasia Mobile and Anastasia Towing.

“We’ve always been in the automotive business one way or another,” he said.

Despite the financial and emotional losses from the fire, the Chatilas are committed to remaining part of the local business scene.

“It hasn’t discouraged us,” Chatila said. “We’re moving forward.”

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