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A Feminine Touch

LJI Collision Center opens on “Rodeo Drive” in Orange Village, Ohio with – no joke – an art gallery in the customer reception area.

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Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

jill strauss, managing partner, lji collision center
lauren angie, managing partner, lji collision center Michael Giarrizzo Sr., business advisor, LJI Collision CenterChagrin
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.

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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.

Family History

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.

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Sisters Lauren Angie and Jill Strauss worked 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."

Customer Focus

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." 

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Behind the Bays

Spraybooth: Blowtherm 

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.

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"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."

Process-Centered Environment

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-by-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.

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At a Glance

Shop Name: LJI Collision Center

Location: Orange Village, Ohio

Established: 2011

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.

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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.

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Building Business

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 a while
before we can get that business," says Jill) and the community. Their goal is to achieve $3 million in annual sales.

"We opened at the worst time of the year, but we’re confident in our location and reputation," says Michael Sr.


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