Michigan family builds strong business by creating lasting relationships
Four Generations Strong
Experience isn’t a problem at Gentile’s Collision in Shelby Township, Mich.
“We are four generations strong,” said Mark Gentile Jr., whose family has owned the business for nearly eight decades.
“We have three technicians who have been with us more than 30 years, five over 20 years, and three over 15 years.”
The original business, Gentile’s Service, was started in 1941. It was located in Hamtramck, a suburb of Detroit. It was a full-service mechanical shop that offered towing and glass replacement. Body and paint services were soon added. Mark Sr.’s dad purchased their current location in Shelby Township, Mich., in 1979. This location specializes in body and paint services. The original location was sold in 1985.
Currently, Gentile’s Collision has 21 employees, does up to 40 repairs each week and enjoys $4.2 million in annual sales.
One reason the 15,000-square-foot, 77-year-old business continues to succeed is customers are always seeing familiar faces at the shop – and they like what they see.
“Customers both repeat and new are grateful to speak with a family member they have worked with before and feel the satisfaction of not being just another number in line,” said Mark Jr., who oversees running the shop with Mark Sr.
The family thoroughly enjoys what it has been doing for years – coming to the aid of people in need.
“Taking a customer’s stressful car accident and make the process a breeze for them,” Mark Jr. said, when asked the favorite part of his job. “Making sure we do a quality repair efficiently. It’s satisfying to write a repair plan and watch your team execute it.”
The Gentiles’ love of the business goes back a long time.
“I was 14 years’ old when my dad purchased the shop,” Mark Sr. said. “I started out sweeping the shop and cleaning vehicles. I was fortunate to have an older cousin at the shop who took me under his wing and taught me the trade. I have never looked back.”
Mark Jr. got his start in the business while working parttime after school and summers as a teenager.
“Right after college I made my formal decision,” Mark Jr. said. “I went to Central Michigan University and studied business management knowing I wanted to come back and join forces with my dad. I have always enjoyed the challenge of business and learning to achieve new goals.”
In addition to Mark Sr. and Mark Jr. working in the shop, there’s also Melanie Gentile, Mark Sr.’s sister and office manager.
That “provides stability for both customers and employees,” he said.
And their business philosophy is straightforward.
“We simply do what we say we are going to do. No excuses, no run-around,” Mark Jr. said.
Mark Jr. says the business continues to thrive because “we are constantly trying to improve our process.”
The family shop, for example, became the first metro Detroit to “introduce an infrared accelerated curing system into our repairs,” Gentile said.
Gentile’s Collision has recently expanded their marketing efforts as yet another way to continue its success.
“We work with Phoenix Solutions Group and in Social Inc. to aid in hearing from our customers after they have left our building and promote more of an online presence,” Mark Jr. said. “It has been great getting feedback and tweaking things along the way.”
The family also actively participates in Axalta’s Local Performance Group.
It is a group that “allows us to discuss industry trends, financial goals, and expand best practices,” Mark Jr. said. “We get an outside perspective from our peers in areas we could improve.”
Each year, Mark Jr. says, “We fly out to Vegas and attend the SEMA show, giving us an opportunity to see the latest innovation and tools from both the OEM side and aftermarket suppliers.”
If the family could change one thing about the business is the facility’s layout.
“We have grown over the years and added a larger paint shop, then body shop, then detail department,” he said. “Most stalls are drive-in, drive-out through overhead doors. If we could improve the footprint/flow it would be great.”
But it’s clear, even with the facility as is, the Gentiles are doing fine. Very fine.
“When your last name is on the sign and (with) online reviews, there is a great deal of effort to preserve it,” Mark Jr. said. “We, like any family business, take a lot of pride in what we do.”
And it shows.
NAME OF SHOP: Gentile’s Collison
LOCATION: Shelby Township, Mich.
SQUARE FOOTAGE OF BUINESS: 15,000
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 77
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 21
NUMBER OF REPAIRS WEEKLY: 35-40
PROJECTED ANNUAL SALES: $4.2 million
WHY GENTILE’S COLLISION IS AN ASA MEMBER-SHOP: “We joined ASA to stay up to speed with current trends and training in the industry.”