In addition to being a “green” body shop, the business is a strong supporter of the surrounding community and recently received the “Best of the Best” Body Shop Award in the Arkansas River Valley.
Q: Congratulations on the recent award you received. Can you tell us about the award and what you attribute your shop’s success to?
A: This award is determined by a Readers Choice Survey of the Russellville Courier newspaper. Our shop has received this award for the past seven years and 13 of the last 15 years. We are always excited when the results come out and we receive this honor. It is voted on by the people who live here in our area and are our customers, and we are glad to know that people appreciate what we are doing.
We have also received commendations for exemplary service from insurance companies that we partner with through Direct Repair Programs (DRPs). We welcome and work hard for the DRPs that allow us to maintain our level of quality and integrity our customers expect. There are some DRPs we have chosen not to be associated with due to their requirements. Our employees work very hard and we are certainly proud of the workmanship they provide. It is their skills that create and build upon the company’s reputation for excellence.
Sorrells--founder of Sorrells Body Shop
Q: Sorrells Body Shop has a long and interesting history. Can you tell us about some of the changes over the years?
A: My dad Ray Sorrells, a World War II veteran, came back from the war in 1945 to his hometown of Russellville, Arkansas and started working in the body shop at the local Ford dealer. At that time, he probably never realized what would evolve from his post-war career. After he spent 12 years perfecting his craft, he and my mom June moved with the family to southern California where my dad worked as a car painter for the next 13 years at shops in Anaheim and Long Beach.
He then decided to move the family back to his hometown where he established Ray’s Body Shop in 1971 in an old two-bay gas station on South Arkansas Avenue. In 1975, he purchased an existing body shop in town, changed the name to Sorrells Body Shop, and continued to build his reputation of being a man of integrity who always made sure he took care of his customers.
My older brother Steve, a painting specialist, joined dad and the two worked together along with the growing crew until 1988, when my dad decided to retire after spending 43 years in the auto repair industry. My three brothers (Steve, Randy and Jeff) and I decided to purchase the business and incorporated the newly formed organization. As the majority owner, I am currently president of the company, but not involved in the day-to-day operations.
Randy and Jeff have served as officers of the company but did not work at the shop. Steve continued to head up the paint shop. After five years and a couple of expansions of the existing shop building, Steve Hodges, a local shop owner, was offered an interest in the business and he became the vice president and general manager. During this time, the company’s growth required a move to a larger facility, and the business was moved across town to the former building and lot of the Chevrolet dealership. Hodges worked with the company for about 10 years before moving to Guatemala to work full time in the mission field. His interest was sold to the parts manager at that time, Eric Hartzell, who is currently VP and general manager at the shop.
Eric Hartzell and James Morton, body technicans
Q: You mentioned that you work in the oil and gas business. What is your primary focus in that industry?
A: Since 1981, I have worked in the oil and gas business in Arkansas and Oklahoma. I am the land coordinator of surface operations for XTO Energy Inc., a subsidiary of ExxonMobil. I am usually on the road negotiating a land deal or handling some landowner issue where the company is conducting their operations.
The oil business has provided a very interesting and exciting career over the past 35 years. It is a unique situation, but I think working with each organization makes me strive to be a better employee and also gives me the insight to try to make better decisions for the body shop. I work for one of the biggest companies in the world, but I am also involved with a family-owned business.
Q: Can you tell us about your employees and the other family members who are part of the business?
A: Sorrells business has been a true family affair since the beginning and it remains that way. I still serve as president of the company, and recently welcomed my son-in-law, Keith Moore, to the management team in 2014. Vice President Eric’s younger brother Jason works in the paint department along with Bruce Link, who is married to the bookkeeper, Amber.
Eric leads the management team that consists of Keith, estimator and project manager; Jim George, operations manager; Matt Graham, part manager; Billie Pawlicki, customer service; and Amber. These folks are true professionals who know how to take care of customers, work with insurance companies and make sure that everything we do is done in the right way. We have a seasoned crew in the shop that is truly remarkable. They know that each job that rolls out the door carries their reputation with it. We are very proud of the employees that make up the Sorrells Body Shop family.
We are one big happy family. We do try to keep our business a family-friendly place to work.
Q: What are some of the initiatives you have taken to be a “green” body shop?
A: We certainly care about our surroundings and do all we can to reduce our environmental footprint. Sorrells Body Shop uses the Axalta Cromax Pro waterborne paint system that emits less volatile organic compounds than traditional solvent-based products. This has reduced our solvent usage and disposal. We do our best to recycle all of our paper products, from the shop to the office. Discarded plastic and steel components from damaged vehicles are also saved for the recycler.
Q: How does your shop support the local community and what is the importance of doing so?
A: Community support has always been a very important part of who we are at Sorrells Body Shop. Our Christian faith guides our principles and provides the foundation of how we run our business and how we treat others. People have put a lot of trust in our business over the years and we want to continue to earn that trust by not only providing quality workmanship, but by showing our customers that we are committed to the support of our local community.
Sorrells has been a long-time sponsor of youth sports teams, cheerleaders, band and theater programs, the Pope County Fair youth livestock auction and church programs throughout the community. Education is a vital part of any society and Sorrells Body Shop is a supporter of many programs at the local college—Arkansas Tech University and the Russellville School district.
Each year, Sorrells provides scholarships to deserving seniors at Russellville High to continue their education in college or technical school. All of the employees get involved with the annual toy drives at Christmas and cereal drives in the summer. The “Russ Bus” is a local work that provides food, housing and other needs to the homeless in the Russellville area. Sorrells Body Shop purchased a van for the organization to help them in their efforts.
Our business has been very blessed over the years and we think it is very important to help others. The mission statement at Sorrells Body Shop clearly explains the importance of community.
“It is the mission of Sorrells Body Shop to deliver the most professional, ethical and highest quality service to our customers; while at the same time, giving back to our community in every way that we can.”
Our owners believe it, our management team believes it, and our technicians believe it. Every three months, an employee is chosen during our quarterly meeting to present a $500 donation to the charity of their choice in our Choose a Charity program. We think giving back is important and we try to do what we can.
Eric Hartzell and Bill Pawlicki, customer service representatives, present toys provided by SBS employees to the Russellville Fire Department during their annual toy drive at Christmas.
Q: What are some of the upcoming plans for the body shop?
A: One exciting upcoming change is the proposed new location for the business. A tract of land has been purchased on East Main Street in Russellville. The new Sorrells Body Shop is currently in the design phase and hopefully will be opened in 2017. We are really looking forward to operating in a brand new updated facility.
The auto industry is in a constant state of change. The technology involved in today’s vehicles is changing so fast and becoming much more intricate and difficult to repair. We are committed to having the best facility with the latest equipment and the best training available for our employees so that we can continue to provide a beautiful and safe repair of a damaged vehicle. Mike Anderson of Collision Advice, a consulting firm from Alexandria, Virginia, recently visited Sorrells Body Shop and is working with us to improve some of the systems at the shop.
Mike works all over the country and is very knowledgeable in the latest trends and processes involved in collision repair. He is a great consultant to have working with our team so that we can work more efficiently and better serve our customers. Our slogan is “Expect Amazing” and we hope we can deliver “Amazing” to each and every customer that rolls into Sorrells Body Shop.