Alex Munoz knows that his shop was one of the lucky ones.
Munoz, manager of Hardy Collision Center in Houston, said the 18,000-square-foot shop closed for four days to ride out Hurricane Harvey. The shop reopened on Wednesday with a skeleton crew, and was back at mostly full strength on Thursday.
Considering that the shop came out of the hurricane unscathed, however, Munoz gladly will take a few days of lost business.
“We’re very blessed,” Munoz told BodyShop Business.
Munoz had been expecting the worst. Hardy Collision Center is on the Hardy Toll Road, which is “notorious for floods along the service roads.” When the rains came, Munoz and his father, who owns the shop, watched nervously on their phones as surveillance cameras captured the events unfolding outside the shop.
“We could see the water elevation continuing to rise, and kind of flirt with our shop, trying to make its way in,” Munoz said. “But thankfully we weren’t affected – just a couple of branches and leaves that we had to clean up.”
At this time, we don’t know the full extent of the damage to collision repairers in the Houston area. Munoz said he knows of a few shops that were still underwater as of Thursday, and he expressed heartfelt “thoughts and prayers” for them.
Service King closed all 22 of its Houston-area locations during the hurricane. As of Thursday, its facilities in Baytown, Fort Bend, North Pearland and Westpark remained closed.
“The Service King family of repair centers extends its sincere compassion and prayers to all of our customers, employees and partners impacted by catastrophic flooding and storm damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey,” Richardson, Texas-based Service King said on its website.
Although none of Hardy’s 17 employees were injured during the hurricane, some of them had flooding in their homes, and a few were without power as of Thursday, according to Munoz.
Even so, employees starting calling Munoz the day after the worst of the storm to ask when they could come back to work and repair customers’ in-process vehicles. He also noted that some team members have taken in displaced neighbors and family members to help out.
“It just reminds me that we have a great team working for us here,” Munoz said.
The Houston Auto Body Association said many of its members likely “have been severely impacted by the storm.”
“We are, of course, continuing to pray for the safety of our members and stand ready to support in rebuilding of any businesses that may have been lost,” the association said in an email blast.
Over the past week on social media, collision repairers have extended thoughts and prayers to those in Hurricane Harvey’s path.
Many have expressed their desire to help. To that end, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists urged its members to donate to the Collision Industry Foundation (CIF), which was established in 2001 to provide emergency relief for collision repair professionals.
“The CIF came to the aid of hundreds of people and families in our industry after Hurricane Katrina, and they have the opportunity to do the same now through your generous participation,” the trade association said in an email blast.
Among the many examples of the foundation’s work, CIF recently donated $2,573 to a body shop worker in West Virginia whose home was devastated by flooding.
To donate, visit the Collision Industry Foundation website. Also, by making purchases on smile.amazon.com instead of Amazon.com, and designating CIF as your charity, Amazon will donate a small percentage of the proceeds to the foundation.
Mike Jones, president of Houston-based Discover Leadership Training, urged people to donate to the American Red Cross via Discover’s website.
As Houston body shops and residents rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we’ll undoubtedly see the generosity of the industry in full force. Thursday, for example, the Auto Care Association said it had donated $10,000 to the Automotive Aftermarket Charitable Foundation to help industry stakeholders affected by the hurricane.
“Hundreds of auto care suppliers, retailers, distributors and service providers were in the path of the devastating Hurricane Harvey,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of the Auto Care Association. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those living the reality of this disaster, and we hope that our contribution can help make a difference and encourage others to help as well.”
While the Houston Auto Body Association foresees “a long road ahead of us,” the trade group offered a message of hope to its members.
“It may not be easy, but we will persevere in the end,” the association said. “We are Texans after all!”