SIGN OF THE TIMES — Tim and Tom Shelley are shown outside their business, Shelley Collision, which celebrated its 30-year anniversary on Oct. 28. Photos by Lizz Schumer.
COLDEN — Twin brothers Tim and Tom Shelley have owned and operated their own shop for 30 years and said that business just keeps getting better. After the pair worked in local collision outfits for several years each, they decided to open their own body shop and collision place. The two have been working together on Route 240, ever since.
“We approached Dennis Neureuther about it and asked if we could rent from him,” Tim Shelley explained. The landlord agreed to move a “little shop he had” down from Cole Road and the brothers moved into the garage behind Pizza Glen on Route 240 in Glenwood.
STOP IN TO SHELLEY — The shop is located next to Kissing Bridge Ski Resort on Route 240 in Colden, just a few miles down the road from where the brothers both live. Photos by Lizz Schumer.
The brothers, both of whom have lived in Colden all their lives and still reside just a few miles down the road, operated out of a small facility there for about a year, after which they remodeled the place to more than triple its size, to give the business room to grow.
Three years ago, the Shelley brothers asked if Neureuther would sell the building to them.
“We couldn’t ask for a better landlord, but we got the paint booth and wanted to make some changes,” Shelley said. The pair bought the building from Neureuther and undertook further renovations; remodeling the outside facade, to make it brighter and more eye-catching, and adding a sign near the road, so customers could find them more easily.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE — Shelley Collision specializes in post-crash repairs, although the brothers originally started out doing more cosmetic work. Shown, above, is some of their equipment.
Since the day they first opened their doors, the brothers have worked as a two-man team.
“We tried having employees, but it didn’t really work out,” Tom Shelley said. “When we do a job, we like to know it’s been done right. The way to do that was to do it ourselves. We do everything ourselves: ordering, billing, bookkeeping and, of course, all the body work.”
Although they both said they keep busy running the business, expansion is not in the cards for Shelley Collision, at this time.
“There’s just no advantage to it for us, at this point,” Shelley explained. “We have a good reputation and that helps a lot. People know we do everything and that’s what they like about us. I don’t see any reason to mess with that.”
When the business first started, the brothers did mostly paint and cosmetic work, but Shelley explained that there is more financial success to be found in body work than paint, in recent years.
One reason for that, the Shelley brothers said, is that cars are made to last longer than they did, 20 or 30 years ago. The biggest difference is in the materials, according to the mechanics. Cars are made with more sophisticated, expensive parts now than they used to be, and that means they can last longer.
“Back in the day, cars used to just rust out and people would come in to get them painted again. Now, no one gets their car painted. It’s too expensive. They might come in for a touch-up, but collision is our specialty,” Tom Shelley said. “Cars used to be more disposable. Now, they will just go and go and go.”
Although both agreed that the business saw some difficult times early on, Shelley said that “we just kept pushing through and hoping things would get better. This is a small area, so it takes time. It’s not like in the city, where you get people just walking in.”
“People go by and don’t even know we’re here,” Tim Shelley added. “Since we re-did the building, business did pick up, a bit. The sign by the road helps.”
Despite earlier struggles, the Shelley brothers said they have hit their stride, in recent years. “30 years is a long time, but it doesn’t feel [like it’s been that long] when you think about it,” Shelley said.
Now, Shelley Collision draws its customer base mostly from word of mouth, as one client has a good experience and tells a friend, who then sends his friends, in turn.
Tom’s wife Leesa attested to their success, in keeping customers.
“Someone will come to them after having their car [serviced] at a dealer and they’ll just be so unhappy with [what the other shop did],” she explained. “I’ve heard people say that they come to Shelley and the vehicle comes back looking like new. That’s what keeps people coming back again and again; they’re really hard workers and committed to doing a good job.”
According to the Shelley brothers, the biggest struggle they face is in getting customers, since insurance companies often send their clients to larger, more corporate outfits.
“A lot of insurance companies will kind of steer a customer to one place or another. We see it all the time. They can’t legally tell a person to go to a specific place, but they’ll kind of recommend it, unofficially,” Tom Shelley said.
“But, a lot of those places are more about quantity. They want to get you in, get you out and get on to the next person. They’re all about making money. We take pride in our work. That’s what people don’t understand. Our name’s right there on [our work], so we want to be able to stand behind it.”
The brothers noted that many drivers are not aware that they can choose where to have their car serviced, after a crash, and do not have to go on the advice of their insurance providers.
“You can go wherever you want,” Tim Shelley said. “It’s a big issue for us.”
The most common type of damage that comes in to Shelley Collision is a bumper in need of repair, although both brothers said they see a lot of deer-related problems.
One collision they said they remembered, in particular, involved a Monte Carlo that hit a deer, in the town of East Aurora.
“It went right over the top of the car and just sheared [the carcass] in half,” Shelley said. “It was all over the interior; we had to redo the whole thing. I felt really bad for [the driver]; he was all covered in it, too.
“We love the deer,” he noted. “They help us out a lot. Most people will come in here and they’re upset, because they don’t deal with this sort of thing a lot, but we try to take care of them and say, ‘Look, we see this kind of thing every day.’”
With 30 years of experience, the Shelley brothers said they have a “good relationship” with insurance adjusters in the area and that they are capable of handling the same cases as larger collision shops, but with more personalized service.
In addition to working on cars, both brothers also renovate and work on classic cars, in their spare time. Coming at the intersection of work and play, the Shelley’s cars have become known, throughout the area, as examples of the Shelleys’ dedication to the craft of collision repair, no matter what the age of the vehicle may be.
Shelley Collision is located at 9750 Route 240 in Glenwood and is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Shelley brothers can be reached at 941-3986.