Chagrin Boulevard, which is the street the new LJI Collision Center is located on in Orange Village, Ohio, has earned the nickname "Rodeo Drive" by the locals. So perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that this new collision repair facility showcases locally handcrafted art and jewelry in its customer reception area.
In fact, the customer reception area, which also features granite countertops, crown molding, a Keurig coffee maker, comfortable furniture, WiFi, and a flat-screen TV, might just inspire decorating ideas for one’s own home.
"We wanted a feminine touch, not the hardcore body shop feel," said Business Advisor Michael Giarrizzo, Sr.
Collision repairers might recognize the Giarrizzo name. Father Michael Sr. started the Cleveland, Ohio-based JSI Collision Centers, which grew from one store to four locations with $12 million annual revenue and was purchased by Sterling Autobody Centers in 1999. Son Michael Jr. served as chief operating officer for the Sterling division, then left in 2003 to start DCR Systems, which features a patented, process-focused collision repair operating model.
Sisters Lauren Angie and Jill Strauss worked at the family business at JSI and later served as managing partners for DCR Systems but broke out to start LJI which stands for Lauren-Jill Independent and give it that "feminine touch."
The sisters found their perfect place on "Rodeo Drive" at an old Saturn dealership. It cost them $1 to $2 million to renovate the 14,000-square-foot space and get up and operating, and from the beginning they had the customer in mind.
"For us, it’s all about the customer," said Michael Sr. "A lot of shops do good repairs, but not a lot take care of the customer."
Behind the Bays
Paint: AkzoNobel Sikkens Autowave
Paint Mixing System: AkzoNobel
Measuring/Dimensioning System: Car-O-Liner BenchRack/Car-O-Tronic Vision X3
Lifts: Car-O-Liner Speed
Estimating System: CCC One
Management System: Summit Software
Welding Equipment: Car-O-Liner MIG, Car-O-Liner spot welder
Alignment System: John Bean Visualiner
Future Equipment Purchases: Diagnostic system
But don’t think LJI is all frills and no quality work. They spared no expense with equipment, buying all top-quality machines, including a massive one-of-a-kind spraybooth imported from Italy.
"It’s 60 percent more efficient than your typical booth and reheats its own air and recirculates it," Michael Sr. explained. "You can prep and bake in it at the same time."
Daughter and managing partner Jill says the shop employs a process-centered environment. One side of the shop is dedicated to work "in" and the other side is dedicated to work "out." Orange lines on the floor demarcate the disassembly area (which features a 4-foot x 8-foot skylight to allow in natural light), while green indicates "job size reduction" or prep and blue is where the actual collision repairs take place.
At a Glance
Shop Name: LJI Collision Center
Location: Orange Village, Ohio
Square Footage: 14,000
Owners: Lauren Angie and Jill Strauss
No. of Employees: 9
Expected Annual Gross Sales: $3 million
There are also different colored traffic cones to signal different things. Red means there is a defect and work has stopped; yellow is approved work that is waiting for the receiving tech to approve; green means everything has been approved. An orange cone outside the spraybooth tells techs, "A car is currently being painted in the booth, and so this space will soon be occupied by that vehicle so do not put any other vehicles here." No car advances without the proper quality checks.
The nine techs, who are paid hourly and can receive bonuses every two weeks, work as a team and are relied on to solve any problems by themselves as they see fit. According to Jill, they will have brief meetings, sometimes every two hours, to discuss how production is going and how to resolve any bottlenecks.
"This is a flowline pull system, a paced environment," Jill says. "The guys are empowered to look at inventory and figure things out for themselves."
A tool cart was specifically designed by the Giarrizzos for their own needs. Vacuum assist is on all tools, ensuring that the shop stays immaculate. Lifts ensure that vehicles are at eye-level for accurate diagnoses and repairs, and raised carts also assure that disassembled parts stay together at waist-level and not on the ground.
Buzz was building long before the shop opened, with people asking when it would open and Googling the LJI name. In fact, in its first week, the shop wrote 17 repair orders. Still, Jill and Lauren are working hard at marketing to insurance agents ("We have to track our KPIs for awhile before we can get that business," says Jill) and the community.
"We opened at the worst time of the year, but we’re confident in our location and reputation," says Michael Sr.
Click here to see a slideshow of LJI Collision